European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

, Volume 65, Issue 10, pp 963–970 | Cite as

Exacerbation of inflammatory bowel diseases associated with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: myth or reality?

  • Helenie Kefalakes
  • Theodoros J. Stylianides
  • George Amanakis
  • George Kolios
Review Article



Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), conventional and selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors, are among the most widely used medications for the treatment of various inflammatory conditions. There is strong evidence of a possible association between the use of these drugs and the relapse of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).


Our objective was to examine the literature regarding the exacerbation of IBD associated with the use of conventional NSAIDs and selective COX-2 inhibitors and the underlying pathogenetic mechanisms.

Study design

We reviewed articles, including original papers, controlled trials, case reports, reviews, and editorials published in English at the PubMed, Scopus Database, and Science Direct database, searching with the following keywords: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), COX-2 inhibitors, Coxibs, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), ulcerative colitis (UC), Crohn’s disease (CD).


There is substantial evidence that exacerbation of IBD happens after treatment with NSAIDs, but the available data remain conflicting, and it is not clear whether selective COX-2 inhibitors are safer than traditional NSAIDs. However, there is some evidence that selective COX-2 inhibition and COX-1 inhibition (with low-dose aspirin) appear to be well-tolerated in the short term. Regarding the mechanisms of relapse, the reduction of prostaglandins appears to be the hallmark of the NSAIDs adverse effects.


Further randomized, double-blind, controlled trials should be performed to address this issue, and more in vitro studies to identify the pathways involved are required.


NSAIDs Inflammatory bowel diseases COX-1 COX-2 COX-2 inhibitors Coxibs 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helenie Kefalakes
    • 1
  • Theodoros J. Stylianides
    • 1
  • George Amanakis
    • 1
  • George Kolios
    • 2
  1. 1.Clinical Pharmacology, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of CreteCreteGreece
  2. 2.Laboratory of Pharmacology, Faculty of MedicineDemocritus University of ThraceDraganaGreece

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