Drug insight: cyclo-oxygenase 2 inhibitors and cardiovascular risk--where are we now?

Nat Clin Pract Cardiovasc Med. 2005 Jun;2(6):290-300. doi: 10.1038/ncpcardio0214.


Cyclo-oxygenase (COX) 1 mediates the production of thromboxane A2 in platelets, leading to platelet aggregation and vasoconstriction. Conversely, COX2 catalyzes endothelial prostacyclin synthesis, which effectively counteracts thromboxane A2, triggering vasodilation and platelet inhibition. Selective COX2 inhibitors decrease prostacyclin production, potentially disrupting homeostasis and creating a prothrombotic state. The VIGOR study findings of increased cardiovascular risk with rofecoxib were subsequently confirmed by large meta-analyses, observational studies and recent APPROVe trial publication. The APC trial findings of increased cardiovascular risk with Celebrex (celecoxib) conflict with those in the ADAPT trial, the upcoming PreSAP publication, a case-control study by Graham et al. and prior large clinical trials, meta-analyses and observational studies of this drug. Therefore, while an adverse class effect is a possibility for COX2 inhibitors, the published data are inconsistent. Baseline cardiovascular risk in patients might contribute significantly to these findings. In light of the negative Vioxx (rofecoxib) publicity, however, COX2 inhibitors might forever remain underinvestigated. The relative selectivity of these compounds for COX2 is extremely variable, casting significant doubt on the class-effect hypothesis. Improved endothelial function has also been reported with celecoxib, leading to endothelium-dependent vasodilation, and associated decreases in C-reactive protein and LDL cholesterol. The addition of meloxicam to low-dose aspirin and heparin has improved clinical outcomes after acute coronary syndromes. These are the first studies suggesting improvement in endothelial function and reduction of inflammation with COX2 inhibition. Thus, more randomized controlled trials are needed to study the relative cardiovascular effects of different COX2 inhibitors, alone and in combination with aspirin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Coronary Thrombosis / chemically induced
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors