Background: Cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX2)-selective inhibitors should reduce ulcer complications compared with non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but evidence is limited, and the possibility that these inhibitors increase cardiovascular events has been raised. The Therapeutic Arthritis Research and Gastrointestinal Event Trial (TARGET) aimed to assess gastrointestinal and cardiovascular safety of the COX2 inhibitor lumiracoxib compared with two non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, naproxen and ibuprofen.
Methods: 18325 patients age 50 years or older with osteoarthritis were randomised to lumiracoxib 400 mg once daily (n=9156), naproxen 500 mg twice daily (4754), or ibuprofen 800 mg three times daily (4415) for 52 weeks, in two substudies of identical design (lumiracoxib vs ibuprofen or naproxen). Randomisation was stratified for low-dose aspirin use and age. The primary endpoint was the difference in time-to-event distribution of upper gastrointestinal ulcer complications (bleeding, perforation, or obstruction); analysis was by modified intention to treat. The principle measure of adverse cardiovascular events was the Antiplatelet Trialists' Collaboration endpoint (myocardial infarction, stroke, or cardiovascular death); this analysis was intention to treat.
Findings: 81 (0.44%) patients did not start treatment and 7120 (39%) did not complete the study. In patients not taking aspirin, the cumulative 1-year incidence of ulcer complications was 1.09% (95% CI 0.82-1.36) with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (64 events) versus 0.25% (95% CI 0.12-0.39) with lumiracoxib (14 events; hazard ratio 0.21 [95% CI 0.12-0.37], p<0.0001). Reductions in ulcer complications were also significant in the overall population (0.34 [0.22-0.52], p<0.0001) but not in those taking aspirin (0.79 [0.40-1.55], p=0.4876). In the overall population, 0.55% (50/9127) of those on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and 0.65% (59/9117) of those on lumiracoxib reached the cardiovascular endpoint (1.14 [0.78-1.66], p=0.5074).
Interpretation: Lumiracoxib showed a three to four-fold reduction in ulcer complications compared with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs without an increase in the rate of serious cardiovascular events, suggesting that lumiracoxib is an appropriate treatment for patients with osteoarthritis.