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nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug

nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, a drug that suppresses inflammation in a manner similar to steroids, but without the side effects of steroids; commonly referred to by the acronym NSAIDĕnˈsĕd. Also effective in alleviating pain and fever, NSAIDs are commonly used to treat the symptoms of arthritis, gout, bursitis, painful menstruation, and headache. They act by inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and other compounds that are involved in the inflammatory process.

Aspirin is technically an NSAID, but the term is often used to refer to nonaspirin products. The first nonaspirin NSAIDs were introduced in 1964. Common NSAID products include diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), indomethacin (Indocin), ketorolac (Acular, Toradol), and piroxicam (Feldene). Ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen are available as over-the-counter drugs in the United States. The cox-2 inhibitors, such as celecoxib (Celebrex), selectively inhibit clooxygenase-2 (cox-2), an enzyme that causes pain and inflammation in arthritic joints, but do not interfere with cox-1, which protects the stomach and intestinal lining from ulceration. Very common drugs, NSAIDs are taken daily by an estimated 3 million Americans.

Although they are often considered easier to tolerate than aspirin, and most do not have as strong an anticlotting effect as aspirin, NSAIDS can have serious side effects, particularly gastrointestinal ulcers and upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding and perforation in those who take the drugs on a regular basis. NSAID-related gastropathy results in more than 2,000 deaths in the United States each year.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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