What Is the Difference Between Mobic (Meloxicam) and Ibuprofen?

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Ibuprofen and Mobic (meloxicam) are both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that treat inflammation and pain. Brand names for ibuprofen are Advil and Motrin. Mobic is available by prescription only, while ibuprofen can be found over-the-counter (OTC), without a prescription.

Your healthcare provider might recommend Mobic or ibuprofen to treat arthritis pain and inflammation. These drugs work in similar ways, but they also have differences. Learn about similarities and differences between Mobic and ibuprofen, if it is safe to take these two NSAIDs together, the warnings associated with these drugs, and more. 

Pharmacist and client discuss medications

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How Ibuprofen and Mobic Are Similar

NSAIDs decrease the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are substances that promote pain, fever, and inflammation throughout the body. By blocking prostaglandins, these are reduced.

Both Mobic and ibuprofen are considered non-selective NSAIDs. That means they inhibit both types of cyclooxygenase enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2. COX enzymes are responsible for the production of prostaglandin. COX-1 also offers beneficial stomach effects, including protecting the stomach’s lining from the effects of acids and digestive enzymes.

It is recommended that both drugs be taken at the lowest effective doses. With Mobic, the average dose is 7.5 milligrams (mg) per day. For ibuprofen, The recommendation is the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time. You should only take one NSAID pain reliever at a time. 

Ibuprofen is used to treat pain associated with mild to moderate pain and inflammation from osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Ibuprofen can also treat other conditions, including dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps).  Mobic is often prescribed to treat inflammation associated with OA, RA, and JIA.

How Ibuprofen and Mobic Are Different

Just as they are similar, ibuprofen and Mobic are different. For one, Mobic is a much stronger drug than ibuprofen. That is why it is available only as a prescription. Mobic is long-acting and often used to treat chronic arthritis.

A second difference is that Meloxicam is taken only once a day. Ibuprofen can be taken up to four times a day, although the effects of extended-release ibuprofen can last from 12 to 24 hours.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved ibuprofen for treating many different types of pain, including toothaches, menstrual cramps, muscle aches, back pain, and more. It has also been approved to treat mild to moderate pain and inflammation from all types of arthritis.

The risk for gastrointestinal (GI) problems (gastric ulcers and GI bleeds) and cardiovascular events (heart attack or stroke) might be much higher with Mobic compared to other NSAIDs, including ibuprofen.

A 2012 study reported in the journal Drug Safety suggests that the risk for GI events associated with meloxicam is higher than for ibuprofen, aceclofenac, and celecoxib.

Other research shows that older NSAIDs, like meloxicam, do not have good long-term evidence behind them for reducing serious GI complications (perforations, ulcers, and gastric bleeding), whereas COX-2 inhibitors do.

For example, Celebrex (celecoxib) has a 44% lower risk for upper GI perforation or bleeding than meloxicam. Meloxicam might also present with a higher risk for myocardial infractions (heart attacks) in people who have cardiac risk factors.

Cardiac Disease Risk Factors

Risk factors for heart disease and cardiac events might include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and smoking.  Diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and genetics can also contribute. Heart disease can happen to anyone of any age or gender, but your risk increases with age.

Which Is Better for Arthritis Pain?

Mobic is approved by the FDA for treating certain types of arthritis, including OA and RA. It is designed to decrease inflammation, which reduces pain, stiffness, and swelling. Mobic is also used to treat ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a type of arthritis that mainly affects the spine.

Ibuprofen is available without a prescription, but healthcare providers can prescribe higher doses for people experiencing flare-ups (periods of high disease activity) from inflammatory arthritis (RA, AS, etc.). Healthcare providers will sometimes prescribe ibuprofen in combination with paracetamol (acetaminophen) or a compound analgesic.

While Mobic is a much stronger drug, studies on back pain show that both meloxicam and ibuprofen have similar pain reduction effects. A 2016 review of studies looked at 13 studies to determine if NSAIDs were more effective than other comparable treatments for chronic low pain, and if so, which type of NSAID was more effective.

Six of the 13 studies showed that NSAIDs were more effective than a placebo for pain intensity. NSAIDs were slightly more effective than a placebo for disability, but that effect was modest and there is little evidence to back this up. In the end, the researchers determined there were no efficacy differences between different NSAIDs.

Is It Safe to Take Ibuprofen and Mobic Together?

There is little evidence showing any serious toxicity from taking Mobic and ibuprofen together. However, taking them together isn’t going to offer any additional benefit.

Additionally, combining two NSAIDs may increase your risk for serious side effects, including GI bleeding and ulcers, and an increased risk for cardiovascular events. Therefore, do not take these medications together unless your healthcare provider instructs you to.

Unfortunately, many people will take these medications together because they don’t realize that Mobic is an NSAID. If you need more pain control with either Mobic or ibuprofen, take another pain medication from a different class, such as acetaminophen.

NSAID Warnings

All NSAIDs can cause stomach-related side effects. Talk to your healthcare provider if you having problems with heartburn or indigestion. Your healthcare provider might recommend taking a different type of NSAIDs or prescribe a proton pump inhibitor to protect your stomach.

There are black box warnings for NSAIDs related to gastrointestinal risk, including for the risk of stomach ulcers and bleeding.

Black Box Warnings

Black box warnings are the strongest warnings for medications and medical devices. They alert the public and the medical community about serious side effects that might occur from using a certain medication. The FDA requires drug companies to add warnings that appear in a black box to medication labels to make people aware of serious side effects.

The FDA has also issued a black box warning for an increased risk for cardiovascular events related to NSAID use. The risk for heart attack or stroke increases as early as the first few weeks of starting an NSAID and that risk is even greater with higher doses. That risk is increased for people with and without heart disease risk factors.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider About Side Effects

Side effects are common with most types of medications. Most are temporary and will go away after taking the medication for a few weeks. You should contact your healthcare provider about serious side effects right away.

Serious side effects might include:

  • GI or urinary: Black or bloody stools, bloody or cloudy urine, severe stomach pain, vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds, inability to pass urine or changes in the amount of urine passed, unusual weight gain, or jaundice
  • Head, vision, or hearing issues: Blurred vision, ringing of the ears, sensitivity to light, bad headaches, muscle weakness, trouble speaking or thinking, and balance issues
  • Allergic reaction: Severe rash or hives, red, peeling skin, itching
  • Fluid retention: Swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, around the ankles, in the feet, hands, or around the eyes
  • Clotting systems: Unexplained bruising or bleeding
  • Respiratory: Wheezing, trouble breathing, or unusual cough
  • Heart: Chest pain, rapid heartbeat, or palpitations
  • General: Fatigue, feeling weak, flu-like symptoms

If you are concerned that side effects are affecting your daily life or health, or if you want to stop the medication because of side effects, call your healthcare provider right away.

A Word From Verywell

Mobic and ibuprofen are both effective treatments for treating pain and joint inflammation. However, these medicines do come with risks, including side effects, the potential for overdose, and a variety of medical complications.

Make sure you take NSAIDs exactly as they are prescribed by your healthcare provider and only for short periods. For OTC NSAIDs, make sure you take them according to the labeling. Check with your healthcare provider about how long you can safely take OTC NSAIDs and if they can be combined with other pain relievers. 

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