Voltaren Arthritis Pain Receives FDA Approval for Over-the-counter Sale: How Does It Compare to Other Topical Treatments?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Voltaren Arthritis Pain (diclofenac sodium topical gel, 1%) for nonprescription, over-the-counter (OTC) use to treat osteoarthritis (OA)-associated pain. The medication was initially available through prescription; the change is possible through the FDA’s prescription (Rx)-to-OTC switch process.

“As a result of the Rx-to-OTC switch process, many products sold over-the-counter today use ingredients or dosage strengths that were available only by prescription 30 years ago,” said Karen Mahoney, MD, acting deputy director of the Office of Nonprescription Drugs in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in an FDA press release. “Approval of a wider range of nonprescription drugs has the potential to improve public health by increasing the types of drugs consumers can access and use that would otherwise only be available by prescription. This includes providing the millions of people that suffer with joint pain from arthritis daily over-the-counter access to another non-opioid treatment option.”

Voltaren Arthritis Pain, formerly known as Voltaren Gel 1%, received initial FDA approval in 2007. It is not intended for immediate relief; patients should allow up to seven days to feel its effects. If patients feel no change after seven days or are still using the product after 21 days, it is recommended that they terminate use and seek medical attention.

Voltaren Arthritis Pain is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs). A study published in The BMJ linked NSAIDs to increased heart failure risk, with seven posing the most significant risk; one of these NSAIDs was diclofenac.

The Voltaren website describes the drug, “Diclofenac sodium is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is often used to treat arthritis pain. It falls in the same class (NSAID) as drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). Diclofenac works by temporarily blocking the production of pain signaling chemicals called prostaglandins.”

Drug Comparison: Voltaren Arthritis Pain vs. Biofreeze Pain Relief Gel and Salonpas Deep Relieving Gel

Unlike Voltaren Arthritis Pain, Biofreeze pain relief gel and Salonpas deep relieving gel are not NSAIDs; they are both considered topical rubefacients. They are not prescribed specifically for OA-related pain. Salonpas is sold OTC, and Biofreeze is available OTC and by prescription.

According to drugs.com, there are no known drug interactions associated with Biofreeze. Eleven drugs are associated with minor interactions in Salonpas. An estimated 111 drugs are known to interact with Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel: seven major, and 104 moderate.

There are no known disease interactions associated with Biofreeze or Salonpas. Voltaren Arthritis Pain is reportedly known to interact with asthma, renal dysfunction, heart failure, hypertension, and platelet aggregation inhibition.