Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include aspirin, are among the most frequently prescribed medications worldwide. The main factor limiting use of NSAIDs is concern about their gastrointestinal (GI) side effects. The purpose of this article is to review the incidence, pathophysiology, and risk factors of GI side effects associated with NSAID therapy. Upper GI symptoms, such as dyspepsia, occur in 15% to 60% of NSAID users, twice as often as in individuals not taking NSAIDs. The prevalence of gastric or duodenal ulcers in patients taking NSAIDs regularly is approximately 15% to 30%. The annual incidence of NSAID-related clinical upper GI events (complicated and symptomatic ulcers) is approximately 2.5% to 4.5%, with the annual incidence of serious complications (severe bleeding, perforation, and obstruction) about 1% to 1.5%. A history of ulcer or GI complications, advanced age, concomitant anticoagulation therapy or corticosteroid use, and high-dose or multiple NSAID therapy are associated with an increased risk of GI events during NSAID therapy. The cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 specific inhibitors (coxibs) have been developed in order to improve the GI safety and tolerability profile of therapy with NSAIDs. In numerous clinical trials, coxibs have been shown to have efficacy similar to that of nonselective NSAIDs, but are associated with significantly fewer endoscopic ulcers. In addition, 2 large outcome trials indicated that coxibs can also reduce the incidence of clinically important GI events.
Copyright 2002, Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.