Atherosclerosis is a process with inflammatory features and selective cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) inhibitors may potentially have antiatherogenic effects by virtue of inhibiting inflammation. However, by decreasing vasodilatory and antiaggregatory prostacyclin production, COX-2 antagonists may lead to increased prothrombotic activity. To define the cardiovascular effects of COX-2 inhibitors when used for arthritis and musculoskeletal pain in patients without coronary artery disease, we performed a MEDLINE search to identify all English-language articles on use of COX-2 inhibitors published between 1998 and February 2001. We also reviewed relevant submissions to the US Food and Drug Administration by pharmaceutical companies. Our search yielded 2 major randomized trials, the Vioxx Gastrointestinal Outcomes Research Study (VIGOR; 8076 patients) and the Celecoxib Long-term Arthritis Safety Study (CLASS; 8059 patients), as well as 2 smaller trials with approximately 1000 patients each. The results from VIGOR showed that the relative risk of developing a confirmed adjudicated thrombotic cardiovascular event (myocardial infarction, unstable angina, cardiac thrombus, resuscitated cardiac arrest, sudden or unexplained death, ischemic stroke, and transient ischemic attacks) with rofecoxib treatment compared with naproxen was 2.38 (95% confidence interval, 1.39-4.00; P =.002). There was no significant difference in cardiovascular event (myocardial infarction, stroke, and death) rates between celecoxib and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents in CLASS. The annualized myocardial infarction rates for COX-2 inhibitors in both VIGOR and CLASS were significantly higher than that in the placebo group of a recent meta-analysis of 23 407 patients in primary prevention trials (0.52%): 0.74% with rofecoxib (P =.04 compared with the placebo group of the meta-analysis) and 0.80% with celecoxib (P =.02 compared with the placebo group of the meta-analysis). The available data raise a cautionary flag about the risk of cardiovascular events with COX-2 inhibitors. Further prospective trial evaluation may characterize and determine the magnitude of the risk.