Inhibitors of the cyclo-oxygenase (COX)-2 isoenzyme were developed with the expectation that their use would be accompanied by a reduction in adverse reactions thought to be mediated through COX-1 compared with conventional nonselective NSAIDs. However, the results of some clinical studies and other evidence have led to the hypothesis that use of COX-2 inhibitors may contribute to an increased risk of adverse thromboembolic (TE) events. In this review, we have evaluated the evidence from small-scale in vitro and in vivo pharmacological studies, clinical trials and large-scale pharmacoepidemiological studies and commented on the relationship between the pharmacological characteristics related to thromboembolic events and the clinical effects in large-scale clinical trials and pharmacoepidemiological studies. Overall, the pharmacological evidence suggests that a prothrombotic effect of COX-2 selective inhibitors is plausible. To date, despite the results from the Vioxx Gastrointestinal Outcome Research (VIGOR) study from which the clinical concern regarding cardiovascular TE risk arose, the published data from other randomised controlled trials (RCTs), retrospective observational studies and spontaneous reporting schemes provide a conflicting body of evidence on the TE risk with COX-2 inhibitors. Concerns that COX-2 inhibitors may be associated with prothrombotic effects remain and these need to be addressed in large scale, RCTs designed specifically to investigate the possibility of an excess of adverse cardiovascular outcomes in users of some or all selective COX-2 inhibitors, both with and without concomitant low-dose aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). Consideration must also be given to other pathophysiological mechanisms for potential cardiovascular risk linked with inhibition of COX-2. In view of the evidence reviewed, it is recommended that selective COX-2 inhibitors should be prescribed with caution, only in patients with conditions for which these drugs have proven efficacy and with careful monitoring of outcomes and adverse events. This is particularly important in the elderly, in patients with cardiovascular/renal disease and in patients with other risk factors that might predispose them to adverse events.