Review Article

Rheumatology International

, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 1491-1502

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

A turbulent decade for NSAIDs: update on current concepts of classification, epidemiology, comparative efficacy, and toxicity

  • Philip G. ConaghanAffiliated withSection of Musculoskeletal Disease, Department of Musculoskeletal Medicine, Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of LeedsNIHR Leeds Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit Email author 


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) represent a diverse class of drugs and are among the most commonly used analgesics for arthritic pain worldwide, though long-term use is associated with a spectrum of adverse effects. The introduction of cyclooxygenase-2-selective NSAIDs early in the last decade offered an alternative to traditional NSAIDs with similar efficacy and improved gastrointestinal tolerability; however, emerging concerns about cardiovascular safety resulted in the withdrawal of two agents (rofecoxib and valdecoxib) in the mid-2000s and, subsequently, in an overall reduction in NSAID use. It is now understood that all NSAIDs are associated with some varying degree of gastrointestinal and cardiovascular risk. Guidelines still recommend their use, but little is known of how patients use these agents. While strategies and guidelines aimed at reducing NSAID-associated complications exist, there is a need for evidence-based algorithms combining cardiovascular and gastrointestinal factors that can be used to aid treatment decisions at an individual patient level.


Anti-inflammatory agents, non-steroidal Cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors Comparative efficacy Comparative safety