European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 233–252 | Cite as

Clinical use and pharmacological properties of selective COX-2 inhibitors

  • Shaojun Shi
  • Ulrich KlotzEmail author
Review Article


Selective COX-2 inhibitors (coxibs) are approved for the relief of acute pain and symptoms of chronic inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They have similar pharmacological properties but a slightly improved gastrointestinal (GI) safety profile if compared to traditional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (tNSAIDs). However, long-term use of coxibs can be associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular (CV) adverse events (AEs). For this reason, two coxibs were withdrawn from the market. Currently celecoxib, etoricoxib, and lumiracoxib are used. These three coxibs differ in their chemical structure and selectivity for COX-2, which might explain some of their pharmacological features. Following oral administration, the less lipophilic celecoxib has a lower bioavailability (20–40%) than the other two coxibs (74–100%). All are eliminated by hepatic metabolism involving mainly CYP2C9 (celecoxib, lumiracoxib) and CYP3A4 (etoricoxib). Elimination half-life varies from 5 to 8 h (lumiracoxib), 11 to 16 h (celecoxib) and 19 to 32 h (etoricoxib). In patients with liver disease, plasma levels of celecoxib and etoricoxib are increased about two-fold. Clinical efficacies of the coxibs are comparable to tNSAIDs. There is an ongoing discussion about whether the slightly better GI tolerability (which is lost if acetylsalicylic acid is coadministered) of the coxibs is offset by their elevated risks for CV AEs (also seen with tNSAIDs other than naproxen), which apparently increase with dose and duration of exposure. In addition, the higher costs for coxibs (if compared to tNSAIDs, even when a “gastroprotective” proton pump inhibitor is coadministered) should be taken into consideration, if a coxib will be selected for certain patients with a high risk for GI complications. For such treatment, the lowest effective dose should be used for a limited time. Monitoring of kidney function and blood pressure appears advisable. It is hoped that further controlled studies can better define the therapeutic place of the coxibs.


COX-2 inhibitors Pharmacokinetics Pharmacodynamics Clinical efficacy Safety 



This work was supported by the Robert Bosch Foundation, Stuttgart, Germany.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dr. Margarete Fischer-Bosch-Institut für Klinische PharmakologieStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.University of TuebingenStuttgartGermany
  3. 3.Department of Pharmacy of Union Hospital, Tongji Medical CollegeHuazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhanPeople’s Republic of China

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