The name diclofenac refers to an infamous non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) which is employed for the relief of pain and inflammation. Diclofenac is generally available as tablets, capsules, syrup, suppositories, ampoules, and gels. Among its many indications, it is used for the treatment of arthritis, dental pain, kidney-stone and gallstone associated pain, menstrual pain, and acute migraines.
Diclofenac exists in two salt forms, diclofenac sodium and diclofenac potassium, which differ in nature and function. The two diclofenac forms should not be considered equivalent, even if their doses at times are. Diclofenac potassium is generally indicated in case of acute and severe pain, while diclofenac sodium is indicated in management of chronic pain. But why?
Basically, the main difference between both forms is that the potassium salt of diclofenac is more soluble in water than the sodium salt. This entails that diclofenac potassium gets absorbed more quickly and has a more rapid onset of action, which shows benefit over its sodium counterpart when the pain experienced is severe and of a short-term nature. It is often said that diclofenac potassium is the immediate-release form of the drug, while diclofenac sodium is the delayed-release form.
A second indicative-difference which is rarely noted, is that when prescribing the diclofenac to hypertensive or cardiac disease patients taking loop or thiazide diuretics, it is advised to prescribe the potassium salt of the drug since the sodium form would obviously be in contradiction with the nature of the disease and therapy. On the other hand, it is the sodium form which is preferred when a patient is on potassium-sparing diuretics.
As an NSAID, diclofenac is considered safer than ibuprofen and faster acting, while also remaining active for a longer period of time than paracetamol which is extensively metabolized in the liver.
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