Can Acetaminophen and NSAIDs Be Taken Together?

Safe Use of Pain Relievers

acetaminophen. Photo by Niels Rameckers (stock.xchng)

Question: Can Acetaminophen and NSAIDs Be Taken Together?

Arthritis patients, in an attempt to relieve pain and other symptoms, often take NSAIDs and over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen. Is it appropriate to take acetaminophen and NSAIDs together? Does taking acetaminophen and NSAIDs together increase the risk of side effects?


The short answer is yes -- it's appropriate to take an NSAID and acetaminophen together.

With chronic use, NSAIDS can damage the kidneys and cause gastrointestinal bleeding. Excessive use of acetaminophen, on the other hand, is metabolized in the liver. Prolonged or chronic use of acetaminophen can result in liver failure.

So, while the drugs are not without risks, they are considered safe and effective when taken according to directions and as prescribed by your doctor. NSAIDs reduce inflammation. Acetaminophen is taken as a pain reliever.

When Is the Combination a Bad Idea?

If you have renal (kidney) or hepatic (liver) disease, you should ask your doctor about taking acetaminophen and NSAIDs together.

It's typically best practice to take the lowest dose of a drug that garners a therapeutic effect. By taking the lowest dose, you reduce the risk of unwanted side effects.

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Do acetaminophen and an NSAID combined relieve osteoarthritis pain better than either alone? Journal of Family Practice June 2004. Buescher JJ et al.

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