Since the discovery of COX-2, a second subtype of cyclooxygenase, selective inhibitors or "coxibs" were developed with the idea that this isoform was inducible at the site of inflammation whereas COX-1 was expressed constitutively in several tissues including gastric epithelium. This new class of non steroidal anti-inflammatory agents was though to be safer for ulcerations of the gastroinstestinal mucosa observed with non selective COX-2 inhibitors. Nevertheless, at the end of September 2004, Merck & Co announced the voluntary withdrawal of rofecoxib (Vioxx) worldwide because of an increased risk of cardiovascular events. This decision raised serious concerns about safety of selective COX-2 inhibitors which are actively marketed today, and the ones currently under development. The mechanism of this cardiovascular toxicity could lie in the inhibition of COX-2 itself, and thus be a class effect. On the other hand, these cardiovascular side effects could be limited on rofecoxib and be dependent on its chemical and/or pharmacological own properties. This hypothesis is undermined by the unexpected findings of one colon cancer study which has shown that celecoxib might also increase the chance of heart attack and stroke in some patients. In this review, we compared the different coxibs marketed to date on the basis of their clinical, pharmacological and chemical properties with the aim of providing some clues in the understanding of their potential or revealed "cardiovascular effects".
Keywords: NSAIDs, prostacyclin, COX-2 inhibitors, thrombosis, valdecoxib
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