Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)BMJ 2013; 346 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f3195 (Published 27 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3195
- Richard O Day, professor of clinical pharmacology12,
- Garry G Graham, professorial visiting fellow12
- 1Department of Pharmacology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
- 2Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, Australia
- Correspondence to: R O Day
A 70 year old obese woman asks if more can be done for her knee and low back pain, due to osteoarthritis. She used to smoke and has type 2 diabetes. Her orthopaedic surgeon does not consider the clinical presentation and radiographic changes in her knees severe enough for surgery. Her height is 160 cm, weight 85 kg, blood pressure 130/80 mm Hg, with normal renal function, plasma cholesterol concentration 5.5 mmol/L, and HDL cholesterol concentration 0.9 mmol/L. Her present drug treatment is paracetamol (4 g daily) and metformin.
What are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)?
NSAIDs act by inhibiting cyclo-oxygenase-1 (COX-1) and COX-2 enzymes, which are involved in prostaglandin synthesis, resulting in their analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic effects (figure⇓). Although the boundary is blurred, there are two broad groups of NSAIDs—the older, traditional, non-selective NSAIDs that inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2 and the newer, selective COX-2 inhibitors that predominantly inhibit COX-2 (figure⇓). The non-selective NSAID aspirin is used primarily for its antiplatelet effect, thus reducing the risk of myocardial re-infarction and stroke.
How well do NSAIDs work?
Table 1⇓ shows the indications and effectiveness of the various NSAIDs. There is little difference in their mean efficacy, although a review of individual patient data indicates that patients vary in …