Inflammation Research

, Volume 47, Supplement 2, pp 78–87

Anti-inflammatory drugs and their mechanism of action

  • J. R. Vane
  • R. M. Botting

DOI: 10.1007/s000110050284

Cite this article as:
Vane, J. & Botting, R. Inflamm. res. (1998) 47(Suppl 2): 78. doi:10.1007/s000110050284


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) produce their therapeutic activities through inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX), the enzyme that makes prostaglandins (PGs). They share, to a greater or lesser degree, the same side effects, including gastric and renal toxicity. Recent research has shown that there are at least two COX isoenzymes. COX-1 is constitutive and makes PGs that protect the stomach and kidney from damage. COX-2 is induced by inflammatory stimuli, such as cytokines, and produces PGs that contribute to the pain and swelling of inflammation. Thus, selective COX-2 inhibitors should be anti-inflammatory without side effects on the kidney and stomach. Of course, selective COX-2 inhibitors may have other side effects and perhaps other therapeutic potential. For instance, COX-2 (and not COX-1) is thought to be involved in ovulation and in labor. In addition, the well-known protective action of aspirin on colon cancer may be through an action on COX-2, which is expressed in this disease. Moreover, NSAIDs delay the progress of Alzheimer's disease. Thus, selective COX-2 inhibitors may demonstrate new important therapeutic benefits as anticancer agents, as well as in preventing premature labor and perhaps even retarding the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Key words: Anti-inflammatory drugs — Mechanism — Cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) — Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) — Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — Therapeutic use 

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel, 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. R. Vane
    • 1
  • R. M. Botting
    • 1
  1. 1.The William Harvey Research Institute, St. Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary and Westfield College, Charterhouse Square, London, EC1M 6BQ, UKGB

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