Like all NSAIDs, diflunisal acts by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, hormones which are involved in inflammation and pain. Diflunisal also has an antipyretic effect, but this is not a recommended use of the drug. Though diflunisal has an onset time of 1 hour, and maximum analgesia at 2 to 3 hours, the plasma levels of diflunisal will not be steady until repeated doses are taken. The long plasma half-life is a distinctive feature of diflunisal in comparison to similar drugs. To increase the rate at which the diflunisal plasma levels become steady, a loading dose is usually used. It is primarily used to treat symptoms of arthritis, and for acute pain following oral surgery, especially removal of wisdom teeth.
Effectiveness of diflunisal is similar to other NSAIDs, but the duration of action is twelve hours or more. This means fewer doses per day are required for chronic administration. In acute use, it is popular in dentistry when a single dose after oral surgery can maintain analgesia until the patient is asleep that night.
Pain, mild to moderate
Injury to tendons
The inhibition of prostaglandins has the effect of decreasing the protection given to the stomach from its own acid. Like all NSAIDS, this leads to an increased risk of stomach ulcers, and their complications, with long-term use. Elderly users of diflunisal are at greater risk for serious GI events.
Increased risk of GI events including bleeding, ulceration, and stomach or intestine perforation.
Abdominal pain or cramps
Nausea and vomiting
Irregular heart beat
Possible increased risk of serious and potentially fatal cardiovascular thrombotic events, MI, and stroke
Risks may increase with duration of use and for cardiovascular disease history
Ear, nose, throat, and eye
Ringing in the ears
Yellowing of eyes
Central nervous system
Swelling of the feet, ankles, lower legs, and hands
Yellowing of skin
Hypersensitivity to aspirin/NSAID-induced asthma or urticaria
Deaths that have occurred from diflunisal usually involved mixed drugs and or extremely high dosage. The oral LD50 is 500 mg/kg. Symptoms of overdose include coma, tachycardia, stupor, and vomiting. The lowest dose without the presence of other medicines which caused death was 15 grams. Mixed with other medicines, a death at 7.5 grams has also occurred. Diflunisal usually comes in 250 or 500 mg, making it relatively hard to overdose by accident.