Nonsteroid antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or aspirin-like drugs act by inhibiting the activity of the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzyme. Two isoforms of COX exist, COX-1, which is constitutively expressed, and COX-2, which is an inducible isoform. Prostaglandins synthesized by the constitutively expressed COX-1 are implicated in the maintenance of normal physiological function and have a 'cytoprotective' action in the stomach. COX-2 expression is normally low but is induced by inflammatory stimuli and cytokines. It is thought that the antiinflammatory actions of NSAIDs are caused by the inhibition of COX-2, whereas the unwanted side effects, such as gastrointestinal and renal toxicity, are caused by the inhibition of the constitutively expressed COX-1. Individual NSAIDs show different selectivities against the COX-1 and COX-2 isoforms. NSAIDs that are selective towards COX-2, such as meloxicam, may have an improved side-effect profile over current NSAIDs. In addition to their use as antiinflammatory agents in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, selective COX-2 inhibitors may also be beneficial in inhibiting colorectal tumor cell growth and in delaying premature labor.