Are COX-2 inhibitors preferable to non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in patients with risk of cardiovascular events taking low-dose aspirin?

Lancet. 2007 Dec 22;370(9605):2138-51. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61909-6.


Cyclo-oxygenase-2 selective inhibitors and non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are associated with increased risk of acute cardiovascular events. Only aspirin offers primary and secondary cardiovascular prophylaxis, but trials have not answered directly whether low-dose aspirin is cardioprotective with COX-2 inhibitors. A large inception cohort study showed that concomitant use of aspirin reduced risk of cardiovascular events when given with rofecoxib, celecoxib, sulindac, meloxicam, and indometacin but not when given with ibuprofen. In large trials assessing gastrointestinal safety, there were fewer gastrointestinal events in patients using both COX-2 inhibitors and aspirin than in those using non-selective NSAIDs and aspirin; significantly fewer uncomplicated upper gastrointestinal events took place in the MEDAL trial. Analysis of VIGOR and two capsule endoscopy studies showed significantly less distal gastrointestinal blood loss with COX-2 inhibitors than with non-selective NSAIDs. Endoscopy trials showed that low-dose aspirin does not diminish the gastrointestinal benefits of COX-2 inibitors over non-selective NSAIDs. In an elderly epidemiological cohort receiving aspirin, both celecoxib and rofecoxib reduced risk of admission for gastrointestinal events. Comparison of the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks is difficult: likelihood and severity of cardiovascular events differ between individuals, agents, and exposure. Mortality associated with gastrointestinal events is less frequent than with cardiovascular events, but asymptomatic ulcers can result in severe complications. Data support the conclusion that COX-2 inhibitors are preferable to non-selective NSAIDs in patients with chronic pain and cardiovascular risk needing low-dose aspirin, but relative risks and benefits should be assessed individually for each patient.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Aspirin / administration & dosage
  • Aspirin / adverse effects
  • Aspirin / therapeutic use*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors


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