Q. My doctor prescribed Voltaren Gel as a replacement for diclofenac pills. She said it would be easier on my stomach and not raise my blood pressure. How can this be? The side effects and printed warnings nearly mirror one another.
A. The amount of diclofenac that is absorbed into the body from Voltaren Gel ranges from 6 to 20 percent of the usual oral dose of this arthritis medicine. As a result, systemic side effects such as digestive tract irritation, hypertension and liver toxicity should be less likely with a topical gel.
There are some cases, however, in which the gel has been associated with serious complications such as hepatitis or liver failure. Doctors should monitor liver enzymes whether a patient is taking the pills or using the gel.