Non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are standard treatment for the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. Traditional NSAIDs and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) selective inhibitors exhibit comparable efficacy, with different safety profiles. Traditional NSAIDs are associated with an increased risk of serious gastrointestinal (GI) adverse events versus COX-2 selective inhibitors, and chronic use frequently necessitates adjunctive therapy with gastroprotective agents. COX-2 selective inhibitors are often used in preference to avoid these GI adverse events. Recent studies have raised the concern that COX-2 selective inhibitors and traditional NSAIDs appear to be associated with a higher incidence of thrombotic cardiovascular events versus placebo. The key in prescribing these agents is for the physician to take a proactive approach to patient management and evaluation of GI and cardiovascular risk factors. This review examines the role of the newest COX-2 selective inhibitors, etoricoxib and lumiracoxib, in treating rheumatic disease.