How Long Does Aleve (Naproxen) Last?

In this article, our pharmacist discusses how long Aleve (Napoxen) lasts.

Nov 18, 2017

Ashley00 asked

I've seen commercials for Aleve and how it lasts for a long time. I am weary about taking lots a pills. Does it last all day?


The commercials are correct as naproxen can last longer than other OTC pain medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Each dose typically lasts around 8 to 12 hours.

Even though you may be taking fewer pills on a daily basis, which is certainly more convenient, this does not necessarily lower your risk for side effects. Below, I describe Aleve more in-depth to give you a better overall understanding of the drug.

Naproxen (Aleve) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is commonly used to treat a variety of ailments including mild to moderate pain, headache, and fever. Naproxen has a half-life of 12-17 hours. Naproxen is in the same class as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), which has a half-life of 2-4 hours. Another common over-the-counter pain medication, acetaminophen, has a half-life of 2-3 hours.


How Naproxen Works:

Naproxen, like other NSAIDs, works by inhibiting an enzyme known as cyclooxygenase (COX). There are two types of COX, known as COX-1 and COX-2. COX-2 has a more prominent in the inflammation cascade. Naproxen, like ibuprofen, is considered non-selective and inhibits both COX-1 and COX-2. Drugs within the NSAID class differ based on the difference in selectivity, which can make a difference in the side effect profile and utility of these drugs.


How Naproxen Is Metabolized

Naproxen is absorbed completely in the GI tract and typically starts working within 30 minutes to 1 hour. When taken with food it absorbs at a slower rate and therefore may take a bit longer to work. The peak effect takes place within 2-4 hours and the half-life is 12-17 hours. Half-life is a commonly used pharmaceutical term to describe the time it takes to reduce the concentration by 50%. The drug usually remains in your body much longer than that, but the effect typically dwindles substantially after 50%. In the case of naproxen, the drug is broken down into its primary metabolite, 6-O-desmethyl naproxen, and is later excreted extensively in the urine.


How To Take

Over-the-counter, naproxen is approved to be taken as 220 mg every 8-12 hours (2-3 times daily) for a maximum of 660 mg daily. As a prescription, the dosing limits increase to 1500 mg per day for adult (1650 mg for naproxen sodium). It is recommended to be taken with a full glass of water for best effect, but may be taken with food or milk if it causes an upset stomach.


Side Effects

Naproxen can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, heartburn, and constipation (usually in less than 10% of patients). Also, caution is advised in patients with previous cardiac and GI conditions which may increase risk for worsening their condition. Additionally, caution should be taken while taking other blood thinners like warfarin, apixaban (Eliquis, clopidogrel (Plavix) or heparin products.

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