Health Questions and Answers

Question: What are the basic mechanism of action of NSAIDs?


All NSAIDs work by inhibiting cyclooxygenase (COX). This enzyme forms an important step in the production of many proinflammatory mediators, including prostaglandins. Without COX there are fewer circulating prostaglandins and therefore less inflammation and pain. As with most mediators in the body, prostaglandins do not have a unique function. They are important in regulating blood flow to the kidney, producing protective mucus in the stomach among many others. In fact, the toxicities of NSAIDs are related primarily to inhibition of all prostaglandins, whether they produce useful or harmful effects.

Reference: Harris ED, Budd RC, Firestein GS, et al (eds): Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology, 7th ed. Philadelphia, W.B. Saunders, 2005

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