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Observational study of upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage in elderly patients given selective cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors or conventional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs


Objective — To compare rates of upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage among elderly patients given selective cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX 2) inhibitors and non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Design — Observational cohort study.

Setting — Administrative data from Ontario, Canada, used from 17 April 2000 to 31 March 2001 to identify population based, NSAID-naive cohorts of patients.

Patients — Subjects aged ≥ 66 years who started taking non-selective NSAIDs (n=5391), diclofenac plus misoprostol (n=5087), rofecoxib (n=14 583), or celecoxib (n=18 908) and a randomly selected control cohort not exposed to NSAIDs (n=100 000).

Main outcome measures — Rate ratios of hospital admission for upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage in each drug cohort with adjustment for potential confounders.

Results — Relative to controls, the multivariate model revealed an increased short term risk of upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage for users of non-selective NSAIDs (adjusted rate ratio 4.0 (95% confidence intervals 2.3 to 6.9)), diclofenac plus misoprostol (3.0 (1.7 to 5.6)), and rofecoxib (1.9 (1.3 to 2.8)) but not celecoxib (1.0 (0.7 to 1.6)). Relative to celecoxib, significantly higher risks of upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage were observed for non-selective NSAIDs (4.4 (2.3 to 8.5)), diclofenac plus misoprostol (3.2 (1.6 to 6.5)), and rofecoxib (1.9 (1.2 to 2.8)). Relative to rofecoxib, non-selective NSAID users were at significantly higher risk of upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage (1.9 (1.0 to 3.5)).

Conclusions — This population based observational study found a lower short term risk of upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage for selective COX-2 inhibitors compared with non-selective NSAIDs.



Mamdani M, Rochon PA, Juurlink DN, Kopp A, Anderson GM, Naglie G, Austin PC, Laupacis A. BMJ. 2002; 325(7365):624.

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