Difference Between Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen

Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are both very popular, frequently prescribed, frequently abused drugs. Conditions for which they are used are almost the same. Many tend to think they are the same thing, which is not the case. Therefore, it is useful to know some background of the two drugs.


Acetaminophen is the pharmaceutical generic name of Tylenol, APAP or Paracetamol. This is a popular pain killer and a fever reducer. Acetaminophen is available as tablets, chewable tablets, and granular powder which can be dissolved in to syrup. Acetaminophen is prescribed for aches (headaches, backaches, and toothaches), cold and fever. Although acetaminophen lowers the sensation of pain, it does not do anything to recover from the underlying cause of pain. The mechanism of Acetaminophen action is to inhibit prostaglandin synthesis; the special molecules that are responsible for signaling inflammation and thereby reduce pain (actually reduce sensitivity to pain for a limited time period). It affects hypothalamic heat regulatory center and help disperse body heat hence reduce fever.

People should be cautious about the Acetaminophen intake because chronic intake can cause liver damage. Alcohol intake should be strictly avoided since it can increase damage to the liver. Acetaminophen has not shown any harmful effects during pregnancy, but a breast feeding mother should not take acetaminophen due to its harmfulness towards the nursing baby. When giving acetaminophen to children the dosage should be carefully monitored and given according to weight and age. The kids should be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids while under medication. Drugs such as antibiotics, birth control pills, blood pressure or cancer medicine, cholesterol controllers should not be taken simultaneously and if necessary only with doctor’s advice.


Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory drug, but the mechanism of action is different from Acetaminophen. This non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) reduces hormones which regulate inflammation and pain related responses. Ibuprofen is available as a tablet, chewable tablet and oral suspension. It is prescribed for the same conditions Acetaminophen is prescribed but in addition for menstrual cramps, minor injury and arthritis, as well.

Ibuprofen intake should be carefully monitored because overdose and certain medical conditions may have negative impacts on the patient. In a case of overdose, ibuprofen cause severe damages to the stomach and intestine. Therefore, an adult should not exceed the limits 3200mg per day and 800mg per intake. It is safe to avoid ibuprofen or ask for medical advice if a person is taking aspirin, anti-depressants, water pills, heart or blood pressure medicine, steroids and etc. or is smoking and drinking alcohol.

What is the difference between Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen?

• The mechanism of action of Acetaminophen is by inhibiting steroidal compounds called prostaglandins, but ibuprofen mechanism of action is by reducing hormones which are involved in the inflammation.

• The biggest impact of abuse of Acetaminophen is on the liver, but the abuse of Ibuprofen affects mainly on the stomach and intestine.

• Long term Acetaminophen usage can cause liver necrosis but, long term Ibuprofen usage can cause heart and blood circulation issues; even heart attack.