Gastroduodenal ulceration and bleeding are the major limitations to the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The development of safer NSAIDs or of effective therapies for the prevention of the adverse effects of existing NSAIDs requires a better understanding of the pathogenesis of NSAID-induced ulcer disease. NSAIDs can cause damage to the gastroduodenal mucosa via several mechanisms, including the topical irritant effect of these drugs on the epithelium, impairment of the barrier properties of the mucosa, suppression of gastric prostaglandin synthesis, reduction of gastric mucosal blood flow and interference with the repair of superficial injury. The presence of acid in the lumen of the stomach also contributes to the pathogenesis of NSAID-induced ulcers and bleeding, by impairing the restitution process, interfering with haemostasis and inactivating several growth factors that are important in mucosal defence and repair. In recent years, a fuller understanding of the pathogenesis of NSAID-induced ulcer disease has facilitated some new, very promising approaches to the development of stomach-sparing NSAIDs.