Solaraze vs. Voltaren

diclofenacDiclofenac is a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflamatory Drug (NSAID).  There are many different NSAIDs, some available by prescription, and some easily obtained over-the-counter (ie ibuprofen/advil, naproxen/aleve, etc.) 

Diclofenac can be taken orally, but it also comes in a topical gel.  I use this in addition to my oral NSAID.  The advantage of the gel is that it bypasses the stomach.

There are two different names for diclofenac gel:  Voltaren and Solaraze.  Voltaren is often prescribed for OA.  My first rheumy prescribed Solaraze instead of voltaren.  Since the prescription was accompanied by a $35 rebate coupon, I assume that this is a direct result of pharmacy reps.  RA is an off-label use for solaraze.

What’s the difference?

  • Solaraze is used twice a day.  Voltaren is used four times a day.  That makes the solaraze much more convenient to use.  I can apply solaraze gel right after my morning shower, and again before I go to bed.  It’s pretty difficult to make time for four applications of the voltaren on a daily basis.
  • Solaraze is 3%; Voltaren is 1%.  I assume that the strength difference reflects the difference in frequency of use.
  • Solaraze is clear and cannot be felt after it has soaked in.  Voltaren is a cloudy-white color; it feels slimy.
  • Solaraze is unscented.  Voltaren stinks.
  • The voltaren reeks.  Not to belabor the point, but the the odor is so awful that it really deserves to be listed twice.  When I was using it, I’d sit upstairs to put it on.  People downstairs would yell up, “Are you using that awful stuff again?  We can smell it clear down here!”

My co-pay on both strengths of diclofenac gel is in the top tier (read “most expensive”); I pay the same amount no matter which one is used.  Cash price, though, is significantly different:

  • Voltaren:  $34
  • Solaraze:  $415


NSAIDs (not steroids) are contrasted with prednisone, which is a steroid