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What Are Advil's Inactive Ingredients?

Understanding What's In Advil

Dr. Kara Wada Profile Photo

Written by Dr. Kara Wada on July 6, 2021

Advil is a manufacturer of over the counter medications that are primarily used to treat pain. In fact, Advil’s original formula is considered to be the number one selling pain relievers in the United States and has been used for more than 30 years to treat a variety of aches and pains. Advil manufactures products for people ages 12 and older who are experiencing mild to moderate pain caused by a variety of different ailments.

If you’re considering purchasing Advil to treat your pain, you might be wondering “what are Advil’s inactive ingredients?”

What is the difference between active and inactive ingredients?

All medications contain both active and inactive ingredients, the definitions of which are provided in 21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 210.3, Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Processing, Packing or Holding of Drugs, Part (b).

Under these federal regulations, an active ingredient is defined as any component of a drug product that is intended to furnish pharmacological activity or other direct effect in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans or animals.

In layman’s terms, that means that the active ingredients of a medication are the ingredients that actually treat your symptoms.

The same regulations define inactive ingredients as any component of a drug product other than the active ingredient. An estimated 75 percent of most medications consist of inactive ingredients. According to Harvard Medical School, the average medication contains approximately nine inactive ingredients. Inactive ingredients may act as binders, sweeteners, preservatives, dissolving agents, and more.

What are Advil’s active ingredients?

When manufactured for adults, Advil is produced in six different formulas: Advil coated tablets (the original formula), Advil Liqui-Gels, Advil Liqui-Gels minis, Advil Dual Action, Advil Easy Open Arthritis Cap, and Advil Migraine. Because the Advil coated tablets are the formula with which most people are familiar, this article describes the active and inactive ingredients in that particular formula. Advil tablets contain 200 mg of ibuprofen, the only active ingredient, in each tablet. Adults are directed to take one tablet every four to six hours while symptoms persist and to take a second tablet if pain persists. Patients should not exceed six tablets in a 24 hour period unless otherwise directed by their doctor.

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is used to treat pain, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness that is mild to moderate in nature. The medication works by inhibiting the action of an enzyme that is involved in the production of prostaglandins, which are substances that cause pain and inflammation in the body.

Ibuprofen is commonly used to treat mild to moderate pain associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, headaches, menstrual periods, muscle aches, toothaches, the common cold, and backaches.

What are Advil’s inactive ingredients?

Advil tablets contain the following inactive ingredients: acetylated monoglycerides, colloidal silicon dioxide, corn starch, croscarmellose sodium, methylparaben, microcrystalline cellulose, pharmaceutical glaze, pharmaceutical ink, povidone, pregelatinized starch, propylparaben, sodium benzoate, sodium lauryl sulfate, stearic acid, sucrose, synthetic iron oxide, titanium dioxide, white wax

Acetylated monoglycerides

A type of emulsifier that helps to stabilize and improve the shelf life of a number of different products, including medications, foods, and baking ingredients.

Colloidal silicon dioxide

A naturally occurring mineral that is found in the earth’s crust in the form of sand or quartz. Silicates are naturally consumed as part of a normal human diet and are present in water, plants, and animals. This compound is commonly used as an anti-caking agent, adsorbent, disintegrant, or glidant that allows powder to flow freely when a tablet is processed by the body.

Corn starch

A white to slightly yellowish fine powder that is naturally derived from corn kernels. Corn starch is commonly included as an inactive ingredient for the purposes of acting as a disintegrant and binder. Disintegrants help tablets to dissolve more readily so that the active ingredients can be released into the body for absorption.

Croscarmellose sodium

A type of salt that forms a chain of cellulose instead of creating short, individual fibers, like most salts. Croscarmellose sodium is commonly used for the purpose of helping tablets to rapidly disintegrate in the stomach, improving the speed at which the medication is absorbed by the body.

Methylparaben

A type of paraben; parabens are substances that are commonly used as preservatives to help extend the shelf life of products like medications, soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, cosmetics, and more. Parabens help to extend the product shelf life by preventing the growth of bacteria and fungi in a product.

Microcrystalline cellulose

A type of cellulose that is classified as an excipient and is used to make tablets like Advil hard but easily dissolvable.

Pharmaceutical glaze

A food-grade shellac that is commonly used to coat tablets like Advil. Pharmaceutical glaze helps the medication to break down at an appropriate rate in the stomach so that the body is able to receive the treatment it needs quickly but does not use all of the medication too soon, resulting in a return of symptoms.

Pharmaceutical ink

A type of edible ink that is used to color medications. Pharmaceutical ink may also be used to print words on medications; for example, the Advil coated tablets are stamped with the word “Advil” on each tablet.

Povidone

A number of purposes as an inactive ingredient, including acting as a disintegrant, acting as a binder, and serving as a synthetic polymer vehicle to help disperse and suspend drugs. The solution is a fine white powder that is readily dissolved in water.

Pregelatinized starch


A dried, cooked starch, typically derived from corn or potato, that can serve as a tablet diluent, disintegrant, glidant, or binder. Pregelatinized starch is most commonly used to help tablets like Advil disintegrate appropriately.

Propylparaben

A type of paraben; parabens are substances that are commonly used as preservatives to help extend the shelf life of products like medications, soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, cosmetics, and more. Parabens help to extend the product shelf life by preventing the growth of bacteria and fungi in a product.

Sodium benzoate

A substance that acts as a lubricant in the pharmaceutical industry, helping medications like Advil to be easier to swallow.

Sodium lauryl sulfate

An ingredient that is commonly used in cleaning products, cosmetics, and medications. This inactive ingredient is most commonly used as an excipient in dissolvable tablets like Advil.

Stearic acid

A waxy fatty acid that is used as a solubilizing agent, tablet lubricant, or emulsifying agent in the pharmaceutical industry. It should be noted that the use of stearic acid in medication as an inactive ingredient must be approved by the FDA.

Sucrose

A type of sugar that is typically added to medications like Advil in order to mask the bitter taste of ibuprofen and make swallowing the medication more palatable.

Synthetic iron oxide

A dye that provides opacity for light-sensitive products, helping to keep active ingredients stable. Synthetic iron oxide is the inactive ingredient that gives Advil tablets their distinctive rust color.

Titanium dioxide

A naturally occurring mineral that is commonly used in medications as a pigment for the coatings on tablets like Advil.

White wax

A coating that consists primarily of fatty acid esters that create a slippery surface. White wax is included as an inactive ingredient in Advil for the purpose of making it easier to swallow tablets.

Are inactive ingredients associated with any risks?

Most inactive ingredients are listed by the FDA as “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS. That means that while most people will not experience any type of reaction to inactive ingredients, some people may find that they suffer from adverse effects.

Two of the most common risks associated with inactive ingredients in general include allergic reactions and digestive distress due to intolerances. Your likelihood of experiencing an adverse reaction to inactive ingredients correlates to the number of medications that you take.

The more medications you take, the more inactive ingredients you are exposed to and the more likely you are to experience an adverse reaction.

Summary

Advil coated tablets contain 200 mg of ibuprofen per tablet as the active ingredient.

The medication also contains the following inactive ingredients: acetylated monoglycerides, colloidal silicon dioxide, corn starch, croscarmellose sodium, methylparaben, microcrystalline cellulose, pharmaceutical glaze, pharmaceutical ink, povidone, pregelatinized starch, propylparaben, sodium benzoate, sodium lauryl sulfate, stearic acid, sucrose, synthetic iron oxide, titanium dioxide, white wax.

Inactive ingredients are found in all types of prescription drugs and over the counter medications but can cause allergic reactions or digestive distress in some people.



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