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Fiorinal Vs. Fioricet: Difference Between The Two?

fiorinal vs.fioricet drug comparison

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Fiorinal and Fioricet are two similar medications. Both Fiorinal and Fioricet are designed to treat tension headaches through a combination of pain relief and muscle relaxation. However, the differences between Fioricet and Fiorinal still exist, and they can be critical for the patients.

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Table of Contents

Fiorinal Vs. Fioricet: General Comparison

When comparing Fiorinal and Fioricet, it can be difficult for patients to spot a difference. Both are medications designed to treat pain through a combination of two actions: relieving the pain itself and relaxing the muscles that, through tension, are contributing to the pain. Both medications use butalbital as their sedative, muscle-relaxing agent. They also each contain caffeine to increase the effects of their pain-relieving agents.
The primary difference between the two medications lies in which pain reliever they use in their formula. The difference between Fiorinal and Fioricet is that the former uses aspirin for pain relief, and the latter uses acetaminophen.

Because some users may be contraindicated for the use of one of these pain relievers, they may not be able to take both medications.

Both medications have 325 mg of their respective pain relievers, 50 mg of butalbital, and 40 mg of caffeine. They are also both prescription medications. Ultimately, when comparing Fiorinal vs. Fioricet, the right choice comes down to which pain reliever is best suited to the patient.

Fiorinal And Fioricet: Generic Availability

Fioricet and Fiorinal are brand names of the medications. Allergan Sales LLC manufactures Fiorinal (it is also sold under the name Lanorinal), while Teva manufactures Fioricet.
Given that Fioricet has numerous generics to choose from, this difference between Fioricet and Fiorinal might be important enough for a patient to choose one over the other.
fiorinal vs.fioricet prices

Fiorinal vs. Fioricet Pricing

The next major difference between Fiorinal and Fioricet is their cost. When comparing their prices, Fioricet comes out significantly cheaper – $154, while Fiorinal is $573 for 100 capsules of the medication.
For those with comprehensive insurance coverage, this price variation between Fioricet and Fiorinal may not be important. However, for anyone paying out of pocket or those who have minimal insurance coverage, the price variations of medications may decide which of the two they can take.

Why Is Fiorinal A Controlled Substance And Fioricet Is Not?

Yet, another difference between Fiorinal and Fioricet is that the former is classified as a controlled substance by the DEA, while the latter is not. On the surface, this does not make a lot of sense. Both have the same amount of butalbital, which is the substance in the medications that can be abused and may be addictive for some users. This difference between Fioricet and Fiorinal comes down to some seemingly arbitrary rules.

Section 811(g) (3) (A) of the Controlled Substances Act outlines the necessary ratios of certain non-controlled substance to specific controlled substances to receive non-scheduled status. If an aspirin-butalbital combination does not have at least 188 mg of aspirin per every 15 mg of butalbital, it is a controlled substance. For an acetaminophen-butalbital combination, that ratio is 70 mg of acetaminophen per every 15 mg of butalbital. How this plays out with Fioricet and Fiorinal is what puts them on opposite ends of the DEA drug schedule.

Fiorinal has 325 mg of aspirin to 50 mg of butalbital. This breaks down into a ratio of 97 mg of aspirin to every 15 mg of butalbital, which falls below the 188:15 ratio that must be met to qualify as a non-scheduled substance. As a result, Fiorinal is a Schedule III substance according to the DEA.
Fioricet has 325 mg of acetaminophen to 50 mg of butalbital. This breaks down into a ratio of 97 mg acetaminophen to every 15 mg of butalbital. This is well above the 70:15 ratio needed for the medication to be classified as a non-controlled substance.
Ultimately, this comparison of Fiorinal vs. Fioricet may not make a big difference to many patients. However, it is still important to understand.

Uses And MOA Of Both Medications

Both Fioricet and Fiorinal are used to treat tension headaches. Butalbital works by suppressing neuronal excitability, impulse conduction, and the release of neurotransmitters. This inhibition occurs at GABAergic synapses that express GABA-A receptors.
Given that the difference between Fioricet and Fiorinal is their pain-relieving agents, this is where the varying mechanism of actions come into play.

Acetaminophen inhibits a secondary peroxidase step involved in prostanoid synthesis by cyclooxygenase enzymes. Aspirin inhibits the synthesis of prostaglandins.

Ultimately, deciding which drug to use is based on which pain reliever better suits the patient. For example, someone with stomach ulcers should avoid aspirin, while those with liver disease cannot have acetaminophen.

Difference Between Fiorinal And Fioricet On Drug Test

Fioricet and Fiorinal as combination medications will not show up on a standard drug test. These tests do not look for things like caffeine, acetaminophen, or aspirin. However, they might screen for barbiturates; the drug class butalbital belongs to. Here is how long butalbital can remain detectable on drug screenings:

Body systemDetectability
In the blood72 hours
In the urine7 days
In the saliva24 hours
In the hair90 days
Users who have a valid prescription for butalbital containing medications should not need to worry about a positive drug screening unless their job prohibits the use of sedative medications.

Remain Vigilant

Although both Fiorinal and Fioricet have legitimate medical applications, it is possible to become addicted to them. Users who feel they are dependent upon or addicted to the medication should seek treatment for substance abuse. Among many options, drug rehabilitation centers can help to detox and find the right methods for living a healthier life.

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View Sources
  1. MedlinePlus. Acetaminophen, Butalbital, and Caffeine. 2019. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601009.html.
  2. DailyMed. FIORINAL- butalbital, aspirin, and caffeine capsule. 2018. https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=a00c6776-e9ef-411b-9396-915c3787559a.
  3. Title 21 United States Code (USC) Controlled Substances Act. The US Department Of Justice. https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr/21usc/811.htm.
Isaak Stotts

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.

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