Advil and Aleve - What's the Difference?

Distinguishing Between Advil and Aleve

Boxes of Advil on a store shelf.
Boxes of Advil on a store shelf. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Advil and Aleve are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used to treat arthritis. Though they are different drugs, they fall within the same drug class. What other similarities and differences do we see between Advil and Aleve?

Similarities Between Advil and Aleve

Advil and Aleve are sold over-the-counter in pharmacies, meaning that they don't require a prescription. They are used to relieve pain and reduce fever.

Advil and Aleve temporarily relieve minor aches and pains that occur with headache, toothache, backache, menstrual cramps, the common cold, muscular aches and minor arthritis pain.

They have the same action, they inhibit cyclooxygenases, COX-1 and COX-2 which are enzymes that are involved in the inflammatory process as well as other processes in the body. The main target to relieve pain and inflammation is inhibiting COX-2, but both of these drugs also inhibit COX-1, which isn't desirable.

Advil and Aleve are in the same drug class and have similar potential side effects and adverse reactions Because COX-1 maintains the normal lining of the stomach, inhibiting it can produce gastrointestinal symptoms. It also is involved with kidney and platelet function, so there can be side effects with prolonged bleeding times and with kidney function.

The FDA warned about increased heart attack and stroke risk with all NSAIDs, including Aleve and Advil, in 2014.

While there were initial reports that Aleve was safer, the FDA panel voted 16-9 against removing the warning for naproxen (Aleve).

Differences Between Advil and Aleve

Difference in Active Ingredients:

  • The active ingredient in Advil is ibuprofen. Each Advil tablet contains 200 mg of ibuprofen.
  • Aleve tablets contain 220 mg naproxen sodium.

    Differences in Dosing

    • For Advil: Adults and children 12 years old and over should take one tablet every 4 to 6 hours while symptoms persist. If one is not effective, two tablets can be taken together, but you should not exceed 6 tablets in 24 hours unless directed by a doctor.
    • For Aleve: Take one Aleve every 8 to 12 hours while symptoms last. For the first dose, you can take 2 Aleve within the first hour. You should not exceed 2 Aleve in any 8 to 12-hour period and should not exceed 3 Aleve in any 24-hour period. Essentially, the effects of Advil last for 4 to 8 hours while Aleve lasts for 8 to 12 hours.

    Differences in Side Effects:

    • Advil (ibuprofen) has the lowest incidence of digestive reactions of the non-selective NSAIDs, including Aleve (Naproxen). It is favored for people who have ulcers or acid reflux disease.
    • Aleve is more likely to cause pseudoporphyria, a type of photosensitivity.
    • Further research may or may not show a difference in the risk of heart attack and stroke between the two NSAIDs.

      More Details:

      Can You Take Advil and Aleve Together?

      Taking Advil and Aleve together is not recommended. The risk of side effects and adverse events increases if both are taken together. You should stick to taking one or the other, and only as directed.


      Advil, The Every Pain Reliever. Accessed 1/27/10.

      Aleve FAQs. Bayer HealthCare. Accessed 1/27/10.

      FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA strengthens warning that non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause heart attacks or strokes. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 7/9/2015.

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