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Spontaneous reporting of adverse drug reactions to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

A report from the Spanish System of Pharmacovigilance, including an early analysis of topical and enteric-coated formulations

  • Pharmacoepidemiology And Prescription
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Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the third most commonly prescribed group of drugs in Spain. We present here the profile of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) attributed to them and reported to the Spanish System of Pharmacovigilance (SSPV) between 1983 and 1991, together with a preliminary analysis of topical, slow-release (SR) and enteric-coated (EC) preparations.

Out of 18 348 reports of ADRs included in the SSPV database, 1609 (8.8%) implicated an NSAID. NSAIDs ranked second after antibiotics (15.1% of all reports) among the most commonly implicated drugs. Half of the patients were more than 55 years old, and 60% were women.

Diclofenac (364 reports), piroxicam (282), indomethacin (197), naproxen (155), and ketoprofen (137) were the most commonly implicated NSAIDs in reports of ADRs.

The most commonly reported ADRs were gastrointestinal (39%), cutaneous (20%), and those affecting the central and peripheral nervous system (9%). Seven reactions had a fatal outcome, and 138 were considered life threatening. Forty-nine reports included previously undescribed ADRs.

There were 98 reports describing ADRs attributed to topical NSAIDs; 5 of these described 11 general reactions, such as duodenal ulcer, gastrointestinal bleeding, diarrhoea, dyspnoea, facial oedema, aggravation of bronchospasm, and angioedema.

One hundred and sixty-eight reports referred to SR and EC preparations. The ratio of gastrointestinal to non-gastrointestinal reactions to SR-EC diclofenac was higher in the case of SR-EC diclofenac than in the case of plain diclofenac (P=0.037); similarly, the ratio of CNS to non-CNS reactions to SR-EC indomethacin was also higher than the corresponding ratio with plain indomethacin (P=0.002). Although differential selective reporting of these preparations cannot be excluded, these results raise doubts about the relative safety of SR and EC preparations of NSAIDs in practice.

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Figueras, A., Capellà, D., Castel, J.M. et al. Spontaneous reporting of adverse drug reactions to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 47, 297–303 (1994).

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