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Rofecoxib is a selective cyclo-oxygenase (COX)-2 inhibitor which has little or no effect on the COX-1 isoenzyme at doses up to 1000 mg/day. Rofecoxib has greater selectivity for COX-2 than celecoxib, meloxicam, diclofenac and indomethacin. In well-controlled clinical trials, rofecoxib 12.5 to 500 mg/day has been evaluated for its efficacy in the treatment of osteoarthritis, acute pain and rheumatoid arthritis [lower dosages (5 to 125 mg/day) were generally used in the chronic pain indications]. In the treatment of patients with osteoarthritis, rofecoxib was more effective in providing symptomatic relief than placebo, paracetamol (acetaminophen) and celecoxib and was similar in efficacy to ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen and nabumetone. Overall, both the physician's assessment of disease status and the patient's assessment of response to therapy tended to favour rofecoxib. In patients with postsurgical dental pain, pain after spinal fusion or orthopaedic surgery, or primary dysmenorrhoea, rofecoxib provided more rapid and more sustained pain relief and reduced requirements for supplemental morphine use after surgery than placebo. Rofecoxib was more efficacious than celecoxib in patients with acute dental pain and pain after spinal fusion surgery, although celecoxib may have been used at a subtherapeutic dose. In comparison with traditional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen sodium, rofecoxib was similar in efficacy in the treatment of acute pain. Although naproxen sodium provided more rapid pain relief than rofecoxib in patients with primary dysmenorrhoea, the reverse was true after orthopaedic surgery: rofecoxib provided more rapid pain relief and less supplemental morphine was needed. Rofecoxib was as effective as naproxen in providing symptomatic relief for over 8700 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Compared with traditional NSAID therapy, rofecoxib had a significantly lower incidence of endoscopically confirmed gastroduodenal ulceration and, in approximately 13,000 patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, a lower incidence of gastrointestinal (GI) adverse events. Rofecoxib was generally well tolerated in all indications with an overall tolerability profile similar to traditional NSAIDs. The most common adverse events in rofecoxib recipients were nausea, dizziness and headache. In conclusion, rofecoxib is at least as effective as traditional NSAID therapy in providing pain relief for both chronic and acute pain conditions. Rofecoxib provides an alternative treatment option to traditional NSAID therapy in the management of symptomatic pain relief in patients with osteoarthritis. Initial data from patients with primary dysmenorrhoea and postoperative pain are promising and further trials may confirm its place in the treatment of these indications. Rofecoxib has also shown promising results in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and is likely to become a valuable addition to current drug therapy for this patient population. Importantly, rofecoxib is associated with a lower incidence of GI adverse events than traditional NSAIDs making it a primary treatment option in patients at risk of developing GI complications or patients with chronic conditions requiring long term treatment.

Citation

A J Matheson, D P Figgitt. Rofecoxib: a review of its use in the management of osteoarthritis, acute pain and rheumatoid arthritis. Drugs. 2001;61(6):833-65

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PMID: 11398914

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