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.

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  1. Mae

    Being allergic to anything ingested, the Rheum prescribed a tube to help with a partially torn Achilles tendon pain. Interestingly and over a few days, I’ve noticed my GERD is worsening and overall GI pain which I’ve attributed to other medical conditions. After reading , I am now going to have to reconsider and return to something homeopathic to reduce my ilks.
    Thank you People’s Pharmacy!.

  2. NJ

    Thank you so much for this information. I have been wondering about the gel. I have a relative who travels to Europe and buys it for me cheaply and over the counter. We cannot get this basically safe gel that can ease pain for so many people without a prescription and without paying ridiculous prices. Yet you write that Europe has banned 700 generic drugs that we can purchase here. What is wrong with our FDA? Are they corporate owned?

  3. Nancy

    Wish I could use it because it clearly decreased the arthritic pain in my feet, but I get a red, itchy, bubbly rash wherever I apply it after two days of use.

  4. The Mad Man

    I have used Voltaren Gel (topical) for pain issues. I have a lot of pain issues after 5 operations and recommended Voltaren Gel. The hardest problem was at night when the pain is the worse. I have used the gel on the pain site and it seems to ‘numb’ or at least take the pain area down to a tolerable level, enough for me to get some sleep at night. I have depended on this medication and only use it as needed.
    Now it is very hard to get this medication from the manufacturer (Novartis Endo Pharmaceuticals) but I recently got a call from my pharmacy telling me they expect to have the drug within the next couple of days.
    I have tried exposure of this company to many including the FDA and the news media but with little results so we are left at the mercy of the pharmaceutical company who hold our medication hostage for what ever the reason!
    Hope to see this medication back on the shelves very soon but it will take more than just me to expose the problems with getting medication from the drug companies and I hope there are more people who can help.

  5. Rx

    Amazing. Another drug mishap for me. My doctor gave me Voltaren gel samples to try for joint pain. When I looked at the warnings (I cannot tolerate even tiny amounts of NSAIDs any more, due to other bad drug reactions that ruined my stomach) I asked about them. He waved them off, saying “They HAVE to say that because it’s an NSAID.”
    He said the gel was better because it wouldn’t go into my stomach. I did fine on the samples, and paid $167 for a prescription for several big tubes of Voltaren. As always, I was using a very low dose, less than half the recommended dose and only once or twice a day.
    After a couple weeks, I woke up with severe stomach pain. My stomach began to feel pretty awful in general. I asked my pharmacist and he said the gel goes into the bloodstream, and goes everywhere in the body, therefore, it causes all the side effects of any oral NSAID, i.e., everything listed on the box as a warning was true.
    Yes, it was causing my stomach pain and who knows what else. INTERESTING. My doctor ( a rheumatologist, not my internist) never asked me about liver health and never mentioned checking my liver enzymes (which haven’t been checked in quite a while.) That’s $167 down the drain, I can’t use the stuff. I tried a couple times later to just use a tiny dab or two of it, and it upset my stomach again. It seems as if it takes a while to build up in your body – or maybe you get sensitized to it.

  6. Marcus

    I was prescribed Voltaren as a pill, not a topical treatment, for an inflammation in my leg. It worked extremely well…

  7. Sha

    After a good result with Voltaren Gel, for almost nine months; I developed an allergy to the product. I have many med allergies that can flare up anywhere from two weeks to over two years of taking a med, without problems.
    My food allergies, ie MSG, additives, etc. manifest within one to two hours following ingestion with rash & diarrhea. There are chemicals in food listed as “No MSG”, that, in combination act like MSG.
    Good luck

  8. Karen T.

    I’ve used a number of different topical anti-inflammatories over the years, and I love Voltarren. While N=1, it appears to be much more potent on site-specific pain than anything I take orally.
    I can admit to an unpleasantly hung-over morning after when I used too much of a different topical, so I learned never to treat more than two areas, and that only in limited amounts, with a topical analgesic. If I’m in whole-body pain, it’s time for a pill.

  9. cpmt

    may be she/he can use home-natural-remedies… ?? like concord grape juice, cherry juice, gold raisins with gin etc…??

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