Evolving guidelines in the use of topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the treatment of osteoarthritis

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2014 Jan 21;15:27. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-15-27.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a standard treatment for osteoarthritis (OA), but the use of oral NSAIDs has been linked to an elevated risk for cardiovascular and gastrointestinal adverse events and renal toxicity. Topical NSAIDs are thought to afford efficacy that is comparable to oral formulations while reducing widespread systemic drug exposure, which may provide a benefit in terms of safety and tolerability. As a result, European treatment guidelines have, for many years, recommended the use of topical NSAIDs as a safe and effective treatment option for OA. Following the recent approval of several topical NSAID formulations by the US Food and Drug Administration, US treatment guidelines are increasingly recommending the use of topical NSAIDs as an alternative therapy and, in some cases, as a first-line option for OA. This commentary summarizes OA treatment guidelines that are currently available and discusses their potential evolution with regard to the increased inclusion of topical NSAIDs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Arthralgia / diagnosis
  • Arthralgia / drug therapy*
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnosis
  • Osteoarthritis / drug therapy*
  • Patient Selection
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal