Formulations of topical diclofenac, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, piroxicam, and indomethacin demonstrated significantly higher rates of clinical success (more participants with at least 50% pain relief) than matching topical placebo (moderate or high quality data ). Benzydamine did not. Three drug and formulation combinations had NNTs for clinical success below 4. For diclofenac, the Emulgel® formulation had the lowest NNT of (95% CI to ) in two studies using at least 50% pain intensity reduction as the outcome . Diclofenac plasters other than Flector® also had a low NNT of ( to ) based on good or excellent responses in some studies. Ketoprofen gel had an NNT of ( to ), from five studies in the 1980s, some with less well defined outcomes. Ibuprofen gel had an NNT of ( to ) from two studies with outcomes of marked improvement or complete remission. All other drug and formulation combinations had NNT values above 4, indicating lesser efficacy .
While NSAIDs can potentially cause many side effects – some of which may be serious or life-threatening – if prescribed under the right conditions and used as instructed, they can be of great benefit. Your doctor can help you consider the benefits and risks of taking an NSAID to ensure they’re the right treatment option for you.
When you’re taking an NSAID, always use it cautiously and for the shortest time possible. If you need to use these medicines for a long time (for example, to manage the symptoms of arthritis when other therapies don’t offer relief, or when you’re taking low-dose aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke), make sure you see your doctor regularly.