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Arq Bras Cardiol. 2010 Apr;94(4):556-63.

[Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and renal effects].

[Article in Portuguese]

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Instituto Dante Pazzanese de Cardiologia, São Paulo, SP, Brasil.


The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are among the most often prescribed drugs in the world. This heterogeneous class of drugs includes aspirin and several other selective or non-selective cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitors. The non-selective NSAIDs are the oldest ones and are called traditional or conventional NSAIDs. The selective NSAIDs are called COX-2 inhibitors. In recent years, the safety of NSAID use in clinical practice has been questioned, especially that of the selective COX-2 inhibitors. The evidence on the increase in cardiovascular risk with the use of NSAIDs is still scarce, due to the lack of randomized and controlled studies with the capacity of evaluating relevant cardiovascular outcomes. However, the results of prospective clinical trials and meta-analyses indicate that the selective COX-2 inhibitors present important adverse cardiovascular effects, which include increased risk of myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accident, heart failure, kidney failure and arterial hypertension. The risk of these adverse effects is higher among patients with a previous history of cardiovascular disease or those at high risk to develop it. In these patients, the use of COX-2 inhibitors must be limited to those for which there is no appropriate alternative and, even in these cases, only at low doses and for as little time as possible. Although the most frequent adverse effects have been related to the selective COX-2 inhibition, the absence of selectiveness for this isoenzyme does not completely eliminate the risk of cardiovascular events; therefore, all drugs belonging to the large spectrum of NSAIDs should only be prescribed after consideration of the risk/benefit balance.

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