Renal adverse effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2009 Nov;8(6):669-81. doi: 10.1517/14740330903311023.


NSAIDs depress prostaglandins synthesis through inhibition of COX-1 that is involved in maintaining cell integrity and COX-2 that, although presents particularly in the kidneys, is overexpressed in response to inflammation. Both the beneficial and side effects of NSAIDs are, therefore, through their inhibition of COX enzymes. Introduction of COX-2-selective inhibitors has improved the safety profile of the drugs with regard to their most common side effect which occurs at the gastrointestinal level but has not rendered them less cardio-nephrotoxic. Renal side effects of NSAIDs are rare, sometimes transient and often reversible upon drug withdrawal. The incident rate and the severity of the renal side effect, however, increase in patients with risk factors such as those with diabetes, heart failure, renal dysfunction and in the elderly. The side effects range from electrolyte retention and reduce glomerular filtration to nephritic syndrome and chronic renal failure. These effects are shared among NSAIDs with evidence of dose and exposure dependency. There is no known predictor for the nephrotoxicity. However, a relationship has been found between high plasma concentration and the renal adverse effect of NSAIDs. The usefulness of therapeutic drug monitoring in patients with risk factors needs to be explored.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / classification
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / toxicity
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications
  • Cyclooxygenase 1 / physiology
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / physiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Kidney Diseases / complications
  • Kidney Diseases / enzymology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cyclooxygenase 1
  • Cyclooxygenase 2