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This article is part of the supplement: Gastroprotection: the role of proton pump inhibitors

Highly Accessed Open Badges Review

Current state of therapy for pain and inflammation

Steven B Abramson1* and Arthur L Weaver2

Author affiliations

1 Professor of Medicine and Pathology, Chair of Rheumatology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA

2 Clinical Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

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Citation and License

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2005, 7(Suppl 4):S1-S6  doi:10.1186/ar1792

Published: 15 September 2005


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including both traditional nonselective NSAIDs and the selective cyclo-oxygenase (COX)-2 inhibitors, are among the most widely used medications in the USA. Traditional NSAIDs, although effective at relieving pain and inflammation, are associated with a significant increase in the risk for gastrointestinal adverse events. Throughout the 1990s these events were estimated to result in approximately 100,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths each year nationally. Recent studies have indicated that the risk for serious NSAID gastropathy has declined substantially during the past decade as a result of a number of factors, including lower doses of NSAIDs, the use of gastroprotective agents such as proton pump inhibitors and misoprostol, and the introduction of the selective COX-2 inhibitors. One therapeutic approach that may reduce the risk for gastrointestinal side effects associated with traditional NSAIDs while retaining their efficacy is the inclusion of co-therapy with a proton pump inhibitor; these agents inhibit acid secretion and have been demonstrated to promote ulcer healing in patients with NSAID-related gastric ulcers. Alternatively, COX-2 selective agents have been used to treat patients at high risk for such events. Both nonselective and selective COX-2 inhibitors have now been shown to be associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular events. These studies, together with the outcomes of the recent US Food and Drug Administration decision to require 'black box' warnings regarding potential cardiovascular risks associated with NSAIDs, suggest that the use of COX-2 inhibitors as the sole strategy for gastroprotection in patients with arthritis and other pain syndromes must be reconsidered, particularly among those at risk for cardiovascular events.