NSAIDs - rotatable in 3 dimensions

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are typically used as medicine to reduce swelling (inflammation) and pain.
They act as inhibitors for COX1 and COX2 enzymes that produce prostaglandins responsible for the inflammation response.

They may cause abdominal pain and gastrointestinal bleeding, as a result of stomach ulcers, as well as more serious side effects on the circulatory system: heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems.
This risk may be reduced if taken in conjunction with proton-pump inhibitor drugs (PPIs) which cause reduction of stomach acid production by irreversibly inhibiting the stomach's H+/K+ ATPase proton pump.

The examples shown here consist of a carboxylic acid attached to an aromatic ring (or two) with other groups projecting outwards.
And the abbreviations for the chemical groups that make up these compounds are strung together to give them their names.
This is shown, together with clickable highlighting, under the molecular display panels.


also known as Nurofen, Advil and Motrin.

Ibuprofen was discovered by a team investigating alternatives to aspirin, led by Stewart Adams working for Boots in the UK.

It was patented in 1961 and initially targetted (under the name Brufen) at rheumatoid arthritis in the UK and US. It later became available 'over the counter' - i.e. not on prescription.

It has since become widely used to treat mild to moderate pain (such as toothache, migraine and period pain), fever (e.g. from influenza), and inflammation (of joints, bones and muscles such as sprains and strains resulting from sports injuries) and it is known as a fairly fast acting medication.

Ibuprofen is
2-(4-Isobutyl phenyl) propanoic acid
Label/ Unlabel atoms


also known as Accord, Aleve, Anaprox, Antalgin, Apranax, Feminax Ultra, Flanax, Inza, Maxidol, Nalgesin, Naposin, Naprelan, Naprogesic, Naprosyn, Narocin, Pronaxen, Proxen, and Soproxen

It was patented in 1967, and approved for medical use in the United States in 1976.

Naproxen is a slightly more long lasting painkiller than ibuprofen.

In much of the world it is a prescription-only drug but it is available over-the-counter in the US and UK. It can be used to treat painful periods or menstrual cramps.

Naproxen is
2-(6- Methoxy naphthalen-2-yl) propanoic acid
Label/ Unlabel atoms


There are a number of brand names for this substance: Voltarol, Dicloflex, Diclomax, Econac, Fenactol, Motifene.

It was patented in 1965 and it came into medical use in the United States in 1988. It then became available as a generic medication, used to treat general aches and pains, and more specifically problems with joints, muscles and bones.

In the UK, diclofenac oral preparations were reclassified as prescription-only medicines in 2015.

It is available by prescription as tablets or capsules and also as gel and plasters for joint pain.


Diclofenac is
[2-(2,6-Dichloro anilino) phenyl] acetic acid
Label/ Unlabel atoms

Unexpected ecological consequences

Diclofenac has been used in a veterinary context, to treat animals such as cattle in India.

These are not used as a source of meat, as they are seen as sacred animals for the majority Hindu community. They are left unmolested in traffic-choked city streets, although they may be used to supply milk and for farm work in the country.

When these animals died, they were eaten by vultures (Gyps species) but traces within their body are toxic to these scavengers, and there was a phenomenal toll on these species - over 90% death rate. It was also toxic to Steppe eagles.

Populations of feral (wild) dogs increased because there was increased access to carcasses as a result of the disappearance of vultures and this brought increased rates of rabies and dog attacks on humans.

In parts of India the Parsi community (whose religion is Zoroastrianism) used to ceremoniously expose their dead to the vultures in 'towers of death' but this practice became impossible due to the absence of these birds.

Veterinary use of diclofenac in India was phased out from 2005 and it was replaced by alternative compounds.

Other related topics on this site

The development of aspirin

Web references

Ibuprofen From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ibuprofen from NHS inform (Scotland)