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Drugs Aging. 1996 Nov;9(5):341-51.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acute renal failure in the elderly. A risk-benefit assessment.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are one of the most valuable groups of available medications because of their effectiveness in relieving pain, particularly that associated with rheumatoid arthritis. They are also among the most commonly prescribed drugs and, because of their availability over-the-counter, they are among the most widely consumed agents, especially by elderly people. Older individuals are more predisposed to the renal adverse effects of NSAIDs, because of: (i) age-associated changes in renal function; (ii) the prevalence of comorbid conditions (congestive heart failure, hypertension, hepatic cirrhosis, renal insufficiency); and (iii) the pervasive use of concomitant drugs that affect kidney function (diuretics, antihypertensives). However, because the incidence of NSAID-induced acute renal failure (ARF) is relatively low, and because it occurs in an identifiable and therefore preventable setting, the benefits of limited NSAID use outweigh the risks of this adverse effect. Using NSAIDs for a restricted period of time at the lowest effective dosage, and informing patients of the conditions in which ARF can occur, should minimise the risk of this effect. If the use of an NSAID in a patient at potential risk of ARF is necessary, close monitoring of renal function should further reduce the already low risk:benefit ratio for this adverse effect.

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