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Gastroenterology. 2005 Dec;129(6):1865-74.

Risk of serious upper gastrointestinal toxicity with over-the-counter nonaspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

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Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.



Use of prescription nonaspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NANSAIDs) increases the risk of serious upper gastrointestinal toxicity. Less is known about over-the-counter (OTC) NANSAIDs, which are typically used at lower doses and for shorter durations. This study assessed the risk of toxicity with OTC NANSAIDs.


A total of 359 case subjects hospitalized for upper gastrointestinal bleeding, perforation, or benign gastric outlet obstruction were recruited from 28 hospitals. A total of 1889 control subjects were recruited by random digit dialing from the same region. Data on medication use were collected via structured telephone interview.


Use of OTC NANSAIDs on > or = 4 days during the most recent week had an adjusted odds ratio (OR) of 1.83 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.14-2.95). Use of high-dose OTC NANSAIDs during the index week had an adjusted OR of 5.21 (95% CI, 2.32-11.69). In contrast, use of OTC NANSAIDs <4 times during the index week (adjusted OR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.43-1.06) and use of very low doses of prescription or OTC NANSAIDs during the index week (adjusted OR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.49-1.12) were not significantly associated with an increased risk of serious gastrointestinal toxicity. We did not observe a significant difference between the risk of toxicity with OTC naproxen versus OTC ibuprofen (adjusted OR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.26-2.70).


Use of OTC NANSAIDs at recommended doses has a relatively good safety profile compared with prescription NANSAIDs. However, use of high-dose OTC NANSAIDs (comparable to a prescription dose) is associated with serious gastrointestinal toxicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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