I was at a pharmacy close to a teaching hospital, waiting to be attended to, when a customer came to ‘rake’ for the attendant: “I requested for diclofenac potassium tablets but was given diclofenac sodium tablets.” The attendant replied in kind: “diclofenac is diclofenac, there’s no variation.”
Really? I thought to myself…
Well, if you are wondering too, pay close attention to the answer.
First, diclofenac is a drug classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and is used to relieve pain (as analgesic) and inflammation.
It really does exist in two forms – the potassium salt (diclofenac potassium) and the sodium salt (diclofenac sodium).
The potassium salt is more soluble in water, thus more quickly absorbed, and hence with a faster onset of analgesic activity than the sodium salt. Persons who have underlying medical condition(s) such as hypertension and need to watch their sodium level may have to avoid the diclofenac sodium while persons who have underlying condition(s) such as kidney disease and need to avoid potassium may need to avoid diclofenac potassium.
- The popular cataflam contains diclofenac potassium, while Voltaren retard contains diclofenac sodium.
- Some brands of diclofenac also contain a medication called misoprostol as seen in Arthrotec. The misoprostol helps to protect the stomach against irritation which can be caused by taking diclofenac tablets over a period of time.
- Diclofenac is also available in other formulations like skin gels, patches, and eye drops for a localized effect over a period of time.
- Diclofenac tablet is never to be taken on an empty stomach but with milk or food.