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Jonathan Cluett, M.D.

Voltaren Gel Used For Treatment of Arthritis

By February 23, 2009

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A topical anti-inflammatory medication has been approved for the use of treatment of arthritis of the hands and knees. Voltaren is a type of nonseteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) that has been used in an oral form for many years. Recently, a topical application has been used for patients with arthritis. The application is a gel preparation that is 1% active ingredient.

There are two problems with Voltaren Gel, that I have seen:

  • First: Many insurance companies will not pay for Voltaren Gel. It is quite expensive, depending on the state where you live, but can cost $50-100 per tube of gel. Often you can appeal to your insurance company, but this does not always work. Furthermore, they usually require that you try other standard arthritis treatments for at least several months, before they will pay for the medication.

  • Second: The studies show only moderate improvement in symptoms. A recent study of patients with knee arthritis found slight differences in patients who used Voltaren Gel versus a placebo treatment. It is hard to recommend a treatment, that may cost a lot for the patient, when the expected benefit is modest at best.
I'm glad that Voltaren Gel is available as a potential treatment of arthritis, because the side-effects are minimal (similar to placebo), and there may be a slight benefit. Finding relief from arthritis pain can be challenging, and the more options that are available, the better.

Related: Knee Arthritis | Best Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Sources: Gever, J "Topical Diclofenac Modestly Effective Against Osteoarthritic Knee Pain" MedPage Today, February 03, 2009.

April 10, 2009 at 12:09 am
(1) James says:

I use Voltaren Gel for shin splints. I have experienced shin splint anytime I run for a few days in a row for the last 12 years (when I was in Jr. High). If I push through the pain for a couple of weeks it will get so bad that I won’t be able to walk for a couple of days. Ever since my first year of track I haven’t been able to run competitively. About six months ago as I was walking out of the doctor’s office a sales rep came in with Voltaren. The doctor stopped me to gave me the sample tube. With that tube I was able to train for a 5k race and come in 3rd. In a week from now I will be running a marathon. The gel has changed my life because it has brought relief to my legs. I have international insurance that is kind of a pain to deal with so I just pay for the tubes out of pocket and they cost $32. During my training times they last about 3 weeks. I don’t take full dosages because I don’t have time to put it on four times a day. I usually end up putting it on 2 to 3 times a day and my off days sometimes I don’t put it on at all since walking doesn’t create pain. Yet even when not taking full dosages it does the trick.

May 2, 2009 at 6:11 pm
(2) Robert P Novak says:

Available from Canada without Rx….OTC everywhere but USA….
R, Novak R.Ph.

September 4, 2009 at 11:35 pm
(3) Joann says:

I had chronic knee pain in right knee. Went to my Dr. and she gave me samples of Voltaren, as over the counter rubs weren’t doing anything. After using it for 2 days, I could not believe how much less pain I had. There were days I couldn’t walk it hurt so bad. Now I can get up and down without the sharp pain and can get out and do more of what I need to do. Found out I have a degenerative knee. A miracle drug.

November 9, 2009 at 1:15 pm
(4) Sandra Murphey says:

I was scheduled for foot surgery to remove an arthritic bone in Oct. 09. My son recommended that I get a prescription for Voltaren Gel, which I did from my Kaiser doctor. I’m on MediCal Senior Advantage, and a 100g tube cost me $45.

But because of the immediate and ongoing pain relief, I was able to cancel my surgery. It’s been 2 months now, and I use it 2-3 times a day, with miraculous results! I can walk without pain!

I’ve also found that it can be purchased online without a prescription for as little as $10 a 50g tube!

This has been available in other countries, over the counter, for as little as $4 a tube. Leave it the US to make it prescription only, and charge a high price!

I will still need the surgery at some point, but it’s not necessary to do it, until I’m able to have proper after care.

I’ve shared it with 16 friends, and every person, no matter what the pain came from, received immediate relief.

Because it’s a topical, it bypasses the organs, and doesn’t create the problems that pills do. It’s definitely worth a try!!

December 24, 2009 at 4:55 pm
(5) Gary says:

I travel all over the world — a friend from Poland intriduced me to it — it is a wonder! I have purchased it in Europe, the Middle East and Canada. In the Middle East I found it for $7 for the large tube. Every time I travel I bring a bunch of tubes back with me

February 22, 2010 at 6:14 pm
(6) Cindy Brimer says:

How would I go about getting this Voltaren gel without a Rx? Where would I go online?

February 26, 2010 at 8:40 pm
(7) JB says:

I purchased it today over the counter in France for 6.8 Euros for the 60 gram tube, about $9.00. Same brand, same maker, same package as in the US.

March 10, 2010 at 10:04 am
(8) Guy says:

Voltaren Gel is approximately $35 per tube in the US, cash pay. Smaller pharmacies will charge too much because of the mark up, but CVS or similar pharmacies are your best bet. Contrary to the above notation, tubes are not $50-100 dollars. If you pay $50 to 100 than you have been taken advantage of. The gel is not over the counter because of our FDA regulations in the US and patent agreements. If you take other NSAIDS with the gel there is a higher risk of side effects, therefore it is safer when there are more restrictions to its dispensing, unlike overseas where they have much more liberal dispensing and safety laws.
Emugel (over the counter and in other countries) is not the same as US Voltaren gel (please do some research on the compounds before posting this information) comes ONLY in 20g, 50g, and 100g tubes (unlike the 60gtube this other person posted) and costs approx $15, $23, $34 respectively (therefore, the cost is approximately the same). You dont need a ticket to france, just a prescription and a good pharmacy.

December 8, 2010 at 3:30 pm
(9) Diane says:

I believe I was getting a 3 pk that my dr prescribed for tennis elbow. They were going to charge me $83. I told the pharmacist to put it back on the shelf for now.

April 11, 2011 at 4:46 pm
(10) Brian Lace says:

I’ve had a prescription for Voltaren gel that I paid $75 US for. It worked well to relieve my knee & wrist pain. I’ve been on every conceivable type of NSAID available & this worked the best. I went to renew my script & the Blue Shield Insurance denied saying it was determined to be ADDICTIVE! What total bullcrap. It isn’t addictive. I really didn’t care if I used it or not just when the extreme pain came on. They just don’t want to pay & I DON’T REALLY CARE, since I paid full price last time. I just want to get another tube so I can get some relief. They’ll pay for Naproxen and that stuff WILL kill you!

July 25, 2011 at 1:27 am
(11) joe_sk1 says:

Use it after many other oral options. Love it. I admit even to using it on other painful chronic areas…… if there are very little side effects why isn’t it just OTC?!?

August 24, 2011 at 4:57 pm
(12) Betty says:

I believe the only difference in Voltaren Emulgel and Voltaren Gel is the ‘base’ in which it’s delivered. The base is NOT the active ingredient. As someone else said, Novartis is the manufacturer of both the Gel and the Emulgel. I have both — the Voltaren Gel by Rx from my orthopaedist in the US, and the Voltaren Emulgel bought over the counter in Canada and Israel, which also seems to be widely available online outside the US. No difference whatsoever in pain reflief, or in any other way that I can tell other than cost and hassle of getting the Rx in the US. I have arthritis of the big toe — surgery did little, but Voltaren has been the magic bullet.

November 29, 2011 at 11:47 pm
(13) Ryan says:

I have 120g tube. Bought it in Germany for 7 Euros. They do have a 60g size as well. It was 4.50 Euros

October 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm
(14) Betty says:

I use Voltaren for headaches that are caused by a neck injury. I put it on the sides of the back of my neck every day at least once a day. Prior to using this, I literally had headaches every day of my life, constantly. Now, using the Voltaren as preventative medicine, I have MAYBE one a week, if I’ve been particularly active like riding roller coasters or white water rafting. Amazing product. I was blown away to see that it’s OTC in most other countries. I need to move to Canada!

January 31, 2013 at 6:54 pm
(15) Anthony says:

I have arthritis and tendinitis in both my knees as a result of bad genetics mixed with a few too many activities that I left the knee pads at home for in my youth. So now at nearly 40 I have a hard time sleeping some nights because of the discomfort. I honestly don’t know how I lasted as long as I did before my doctor prescribed Voltaren Gel. Forget what anybody says about it not working. This stuff is an absolute Godsend. During the times when the discomfort causes me to lose sleep I can apply a little to each knee and I’m out like a light. I will apply it to my ankles and shins sometimes as well to relieve a little restless leg syndrome.

This stuff takes action almost immediately and provides relief for a few hours. Maybe two or three tops, but enough to get you through the discomfort until other medication kicks in. Sometimes I’ll skip the tramadol and just spend the day with a tube of this stuff in my bag and be just fine. It is absolutely amazing and I can’t recommend it enough. I would hate it if it cost more because I would still pay it. I would honestly pay any price for the relief this product provides. You can’t put a price on comfort. $30, $40, $90… whatever. A tube will last for months if you use it only when necessary and it is absolutely worth it.

November 21, 2013 at 6:18 pm
(16) Amy says:

I use Voltaren Gel and it works great. My insurance charges me $100- 5 tubes and $35- 1 tube. I think the US is ripping us off when it comes to filling our prescriptions. Their high prices for the more effective medications is a way to control the population. If you’re unable to afford necessary treatment, then where do you turn?

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