Cardiovascular outcomes in new users of coxibs and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs: High-risk subgroups and time course of risk




Controversy persists regarding the cardiovascular risks of treatment with selective cyclooxygenase 2 inhibitors (coxibs) and nonselective nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This study was undertaken to examine, in a large group of new users of coxibs and NSAIDs, the rate of cardiovascular events, their time course, and whether baseline cardiovascular risk modified the rate ratios (RRs) for future events.


This cohort study included Medicare beneficiaries who enrolled in a state-run prescription drug plan that fully covered NSAIDs and coxibs without restriction. All study patients started use of a coxib or NSAID after January 1, 1999. The primary composite end point was a hospital admission for either myocardial infarction or ischemic stroke. Predefined exposure groups included the 3 coxibs available in the US during the study period (celecoxib, rofecoxib, and valdecoxib), as well as oral formulations of diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, and a composite of all other NSAIDs. We compared the rate of cardiovascular events associated with each of these agents with that in a reference group of patients who did not use NSAIDs or coxibs, but started other medications unrelated to cardiovascular risk. Daily exposure to all study drugs was assessed based on filled prescription data. A Cox proportional hazards model stratified on calendar year that included other baseline cardiovascular risk factors constituted the primary analysis.


We identified 74,838 users of NSAIDs or coxibs, and 23,532 comparable users of other drugs comprised the reference group. Adjusted models demonstrated a significant elevation in the event rate for rofecoxib (RR 1.15, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 1.06–1.25) and a significant reduction in the rate for naproxen (RR 0.75, 95% CI 0.62–0.92). No other coxib or NSAID was associated with a significant increase or decrease in cardiovascular event rate. The increased rate associated with rofecoxib was seen in the first 60 days of use (adjusted RR 1.14, 95% CI 1.01–1.29) and thereafter (adjusted RR 1.14, 95% CI 1.02–1.28). Kaplan-Meier event curves showed a similar pattern of risk (early and persistent separation of the event curves) among long-term rofecoxib users at low or high baseline cardiovascular risk.


We found an increased cardiovascular event rate among users of rofecoxib, and a decreased rate with naproxen use. Other coxibs and NSAIDs did not appear to be associated with a difference in event rate compared with users of other drugs. The increase in rate associated with rofecoxib was seen within the first 60 days and persisted. There was no important modification of the event rate based on the patient's baseline cardiovascular risk.