Clinical pharmacokinetics of ibuprofen. The first 30 years

Clin Pharmacokinet. 1998 Feb;34(2):101-54. doi: 10.2165/00003088-199834020-00002.


Ibuprofen is a chiral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) of the 2 arylpropionic acid (2-APA) class. A common structural feature of 2-APANSAIDs is a sp3-hybridised tetrahedral chiral carbon atom within the propionic acid side chain moiety with the S-(+)-enantiomer possessing most of the beneficial anti-inflammatory activity. Ibuprofen demonstrates marked stereoselectivity in its pharmacokinetics. Substantial unidirectional inversion of the R-(-) to the S-(+) enantiomer occurs and thus, data generated using nonstereospecific assays may not be extrapolated to explain the disposition of the individual enantiomers. The absorption of ibuprofen is rapid and complete when given orally. The area under the plasma concentration-time curve (AUC) of ibuprofen is dose-dependent. Ibuprofen binds extensively, in a concentration-dependent manner, to plasma albumin. At doses greater than 600mg there is an increase in the unbound fraction of the drug, leading to an increased clearance of ibuprofen and a reduced AUC of the total drug. Substantial concentrations of ibuprofen are attained in synovial fluid, which is a proposed site of action for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Ibuprofen is eliminated following biotransformation to glucuronide conjugate metabolites that are excreted in urine, with little of the drug being eliminated unchanged. The excretion of conjugates may be tied to renal function and the accumulation of conjugates occurs in end-stage renal disease. Hepatic disease and cystic fibrosis can alter the disposition kinetics of ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is not excreted in substantial concentrations into breast milk. Significant drug interactions have been demonstrated for aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), cholestyramine and methotrexate. A relationship between ibuprofen plasma concentrations and analgesic and antipyretic effects has been elucidated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacokinetics*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Ibuprofen / pharmacokinetics*
  • Ibuprofen / therapeutic use
  • Stereoisomerism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Ibuprofen