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Am Heart J. 2003 Oct;146(4):591-604.

Selective COX-2 inhibition and cardiovascular effects: a review of the rofecoxib development program.

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Nephrology Division, University of Maryland Hospital, Baltimore, Md 21201, USA.


See related Editorials on pages 561 and 563. Cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors appear to alter the balance of vasoactive eicosanoids (prostacyclin and thromboxane) and to suppress the inflammatory mediators implicated in the progression of atherogenesis and ischemic myocardial injury. Neutral, harmful, and beneficial cardiovascular (CV) effects have all been postulated to result from these changes. Investigations conducted with rofecoxib, a selective COX-2 inhibitor, have substantially contributed to our understanding of this scientific area. Rofecoxib had little or no effect on platelet aggregation or platelet-derived thromboxane synthesis but reduced systemic prostacyclin synthesis by 50% to 60%. These findings prompted extensive analyses of CV thrombotic events within the rofecoxib development program. Among 5435 osteoarthritis trial participants, similar rates of CV thrombotic events were reported with rofecoxib, placebo, and comparator, nonselective NSAIDs (ibuprofen, diclofenac, and nabumetone). In the VIGOR gastrointestinal outcomes trial of >8000 patients, naproxen (an NSAID with aspirin-like sustained antiplatelet effects throughout its dosing interval) was associated with a significantly lower risk of CV events than was rofecoxib. A subsequent pooled analysis from 23 studies (including VIGOR) encompassing multiple disease states and including more than 14,000 patient-years at risk also demonstrated that rofecoxib was not associated with excess CV thrombotic events compared with either placebo or nonnaproxen NSAIDs. Again, naproxen appeared to be the outlier, suggesting a cardioprotective benefit of naproxen. Finally, among the predominantly elderly, male population participating in Alzheimer trials, both rofecoxib- and placebo-treated patients had similar rates of CV thrombotic events. The totality of data is not consistent with an increased CV risk among patients taking rofecoxib.

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