Background & aims: Epidemiologic studies suggest nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) increase the risk for lower gastrointestinal (GI) clinical events, but data from prospective trials are lacking. Cyclooxygenase (COX)-2-selective inhibitors decrease upper GI clinical events but the effect on lower GI events has not been determined. We performed a post hoc analysis of serious lower GI clinical events with a nonselective NSAID and a COX-2-selective agent in a prospective, double-blind, randomized GI outcomes trial.
Methods: A total of 8076 rheumatoid arthritis patients 50 years or older (or 40 years or older on corticosteroid therapy) expected to require NSAIDs for 1 year or greater were randomly assigned to naproxen 500 mg twice daily or rofecoxib 50 mg daily. The rate of serious lower GI clinical events, defined as bleeding with a 2 g/dL drop in hemoglobin or hospitalization, or hospitalization for perforation, obstruction, ulceration, or diverticulitis, was determined.
Results: The rate of serious lower GI events per 100 patient-years was 0.41 for rofecoxib and 0.89 for naproxen (relative risk, 0.46; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.22-0.93; P = 0.032). Serious lower GI events accounted for 39.4% of all serious GI events (complicated upper GI event or lower GI event) among patients taking naproxen and 42.7% among those taking rofecoxib.
Conclusions: Serious lower GI events occurred at a rate of 0.9% per year in rheumatoid arthritis patients taking the nonselective NSAID naproxen, accounting for nearly 40% of the serious GI events that developed in these patients. Serious lower GI events were 54% lower with the use of the selective COX-2 inhibitor rofecoxib.