Safety of the nonselective NSAID nabumetone : focus on gastrointestinal tolerability

Drug Saf. 2008;31(6):485-503. doi: 10.2165/00002018-200831060-00004.


Although effective in the treatment of pain associated with rheumatic conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, long-term use of NSAIDs is primarily limited by their association with upper gastrointestinal (GI) toxicity. Adverse effects range from dyspepsia and abdominal pain to ulceration and bleeding. GI damage elicited by NSAIDs arises as the result of biochemically induced topical irritant effects and by topical and systemic pharmacological suppression of gastroprotective prostaglandins. Variation in the physicochemical properties and pharmacological profiles among the individual NSAIDs translate into inter-agent differences regarding propensity to cause adverse GI effects. Nabumetone is a nonselective NSAID that offers distinct advantages over other agents in this class with regard to GI tolerability. Its non-acidic nature and pro-drug formulation, together with the lack of biliary secretion of its active metabolite, 6-methoxy-2-naphthylacetic acid, are thought to contribute to the improved GI tolerability of this drug. In head-to-head trials with other NSAIDs, nabumetone has demonstrated significant benefits regarding the incidence of GI events and more serious perforations, ulcers and bleeds (PUBs). Pooled data from eight postmarketing, randomized, controlled trials demonstrated a lower cumulative frequency of PUBs with nabumetone (0.03%; 95% CI 0.0, 0.08) versus comparator NSAIDs (1.4%; 95% CI 0.5, 2.4). Large-scale database studies also indicate that risk of serious GI complications is lower with nabumetone than comparator NSAIDs. Limited comparative data suggest that nabumetone offers a GI tolerability profile similar to that of cyclo-oxygenase-2 selective NSAIDs (coxibs). Although adverse cardiovascular outcomes appear to be a class effect of the coxibs, conventional NSAIDs may also have the potential for causing atherothrombotic complications. However, based on available data, nabumetone does not appear to be associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Finally, there is no particular concern about the nephrotoxic and hepatotoxic potential of nabumetone. Nonetheless, the potential for adverse drug reactions remains, and hence nabumetone, as with any NSAID, should be used at the lowest dose, which is effective for each patient, and for the shortest time necessary to control symptoms.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacokinetics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology
  • Butanones / adverse effects*
  • Butanones / pharmacokinetics
  • Butanones / pharmacology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Nabumetone


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Butanones
  • Nabumetone