How is Lyrica different from over-the-counter pain medicines?

Akash Bajaj, MD

Lyrica is a medicine considered by many to be a pain relief medication. It is indicated for treatment of four specific conditions: Fibromyalgia, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, seizures, and postherpetic neuralgia. Though it is not indicated or FDA approved for use to treat pain, it is prescribed (off label) by doctors to treat certain types of chronic pain, specifically neuropathic pain.

Lyrica is believed to have low potential for abuse or addiction (a Schedule V medication). For some patients, Lyrica starts to work in as little as one week. For others, it may take several weeks before taking effect, so patients should be sure to discuss this with their doctor.

Lyrica is safe in higher doses, and has minimal renal and hepatic load. It should be titrated according to your physician’s recommendations.

Moreover, it may be helpful with augmenting sleep hygiene, which is often disturbed with neuropathic pain.


Lyrica is the brand name for the prescription medication pregabalin, which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat pain in people who have fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, or pain following a flare-up of the viral infection shingles. Lyrica works by a different mechanism compared with over-the-counter pain relievers such as naproxen, acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Lyrica is thought to work by quieting overactive nerves and minimizing the pain signals they transmit. Over-the-counter pain relievers work by limiting inflammation or affecting how you feel pain.

The use of over-the-counter pain relievers may be most useful for people who have arthritis pain in addition to fibromyalgia. For more information about Lyrica, ask your doctor and/or pharmacist.
Lyrica is a prescription medication that's approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat fibromyalgia, pain caused by nerve damage in diabetes and pain that remains after a bout of the viral infection shingles. Although more study is needed to understand exactly how Lyrica works, it's believed to reduce the pain messages transmitted by overactive nerve cells.

By contrast, there are two types of over-the-counter (nonprescription) pain relievers: acetaminophen, which is thought to reduce pain by affecting the parts of the brain in charge of pain messages; and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which lessen pain by reducing prostaglandins, substances in the body that can irritate nerve endings. Ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen are all NSAIDS.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.