Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are medications other than corticosteroids that relieve pain, swelling, stiffness, and inflammation.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed for a variety of painful conditions, including arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, gout, menstrual cramps, sprains, strains, and other injuries. They may be used for treatment of post-surgical pain that either is too mild to require narcotic analgesics or follows a period of use of stronger analgesics. Ketorolac (Toradol) may be used in place of narcotics for treatment of acute pain in patients who should not receive narcotics.


The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are a group of agents that inhibit prostaglandin synthetase, thereby reducing the process of inflammation. As a group, they are all effective analgesics. Some, including the salicylates, ibuprofen, and naproxene, are also useful antipyretics (fever-reducers).

Although NSAIDs fall into discrete chemical classes, they are usually divided into the nonselective NSAIDs and the COX-2 specific agents. Among the nonspecific NSAIDs are diclofenac (Voltaren), etodolac (Lodine), flurbiprofen (Ansaid), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Rufen), ketorolac (Toradol), nabumetone (Relafen), naproxen (Naprosyn), naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan), and oxaprozin (Daypro). The COX-2 specific drugs are celecoxib (Celebrex) and rofecoxib (Vioxx).

Nonselective NSAIDS inhibit both cyclooxygenase 1 and cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2). Cyclooxygenase 1 is important for homeostatic maintenance such as platelet aggregation, the regulation of blood flow in the kidney and stomach, and the regulation of gastric acid secretion. The inhibition of cyclooxygenase 1 is considered the primary cause of NSAID toxicity, including gastric ulceration and bleeding disorders. COX-2 is the primary cause of pain and inflammation. Both celecoxib and rofecoxib are relatively selective, and may cause the same adverse effects as the nonselective drugs, although with somewhat reduced frequency.

The analgesic activity of NSAIDs has not been fully explained. Antipyretic activity may be caused by the inhibition of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) synthesis.

Although not all NSAIDs have approved indications for all uses, as a class, they are used for:

Recommended dosage

Recommended doses vary, depending on the patient, the type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug prescribed, the condition for which the drug is prescribed, and the form in which it is used. The patient is advised to consult specific sources for detailed information or ask a physician.


The most common hazard associated with NSAID use is gastrointestinal intolerance and ulceration. This may occur without warning and is a greater risk among patients over the age of 65. The risk appears to rise with increasing length of treatment and increasing dose. Patients should be aware of the warning signs of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding.

Allergic reactions are rare, but may be severe. Patients who have allergic reactions to aspirin should not be treated with NSAIDs.

Because NSAID metabolites are eliminated by the kidney, renal toxicity should be considered. Clinicians should monitor kidney function before and during NSAID use.

Among the NSAIDs that are classed as pregnancy category B are ketoprofen, naproxen, naproxen sodium, flurbiprofen, and diclofenac. Etodolac, ketorolac, mefenamic acid, meloxicam, nabumetone, oxaprozin, tolmetin, piroxicam, rofecoxib, and celecoxib are category C. Breastfeeding is not advised while taking NSAIDs.

Many other rare but potentially serious adverse effects have been reported with NSAIDs. The consumer should consult specific references.


Many drug interactions have been reported with NSAID therapy. The most serious are those that may affect the bleeding hazards associated with NSAIDs. Consumers are advised to consult specific references for further information. A partial list of interacting drugs follows:



AHFS: Drug Information. Washington, DC: Amer Soc Health-systems Pharm, 2002.

Brody, T., J. Larner, K. P. Minneman, and H. C. Neu. Human Pharmacology Molecular to Clinical. 2nd edition. St Louis: Mosby Year-Book,1995.

Karch, A. M. Lippincott's Nursing Drug Guide. Springhouse, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2003.

Reynolds, J. E. F., ed. Martindale, The Extra Pharmacopoeia. 31st Edition. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996.

Samuel D. Uretsky, PharmD

User Contributions:

I am a 29 year old woman with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. My husband and I have been trying to find out which NSAIDS are safe for me to take while trying to start a family. This website has been a tremendous help. Thank you.
Sue Wang

Thanks for the article that have provided valuable information for me.

Does asperin belong to NSAIDs?

Have a good week.


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