Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are a class of drugs that reduce pain (analgesic) and reduce fever (antipyretic), and, in higher doses, anti-inflammatory effects. The term nonsteroidal distinguishes these drugs from steroids, which, among a broad range of other effects, have a similar eicosanoid-depressing, anti-inflammatory action
Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, are the most noticeable members of this group of drugs, and are all available over the counter in most countries. Paracetamol (acetaminophen) is generally not considered an NSAID because it has only little anti-inflammatory activity. It treats pain mainly by blocking COX-2 mostly in the central nervous system, but not much in the rest of the body.
Mechanism of Action of NSAIDs:
Most NSAIDs act as nonselective inhibitors of the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX), inhibiting both the cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) isoenzymes. This inhibition is competitively reversible, as opposed to the mechanism of aspirin, which is irreversible inhibition. COX catalyzes the formation of prostaglandins and thromboxane from arachidonic acid (itself derived from the cellular phospholipid bilayer by phospholipase A2). Prostaglandins act (among other things) as messenger molecules in the process of inflammation.
COX-1 is a constitutively expressed enzyme with a “house-keeping” role in regulating many normal physiological processes. One of these is in the stomach lining, where prostaglandins serve a protective role, preventing the stomach mucosa from being eroded by its own acid. COX-2 is an enzyme facultatively expressed in inflammation, and it is inhibition of COX-2 that produces the desirable effects of NSAIDs.
When nonselective COX-1/COX-2 inhibitors (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen) lower stomach prostaglandin levels, ulcers of the stomach or duodenum internal bleeding can result.
The discovery of COX-2 led to research to development of selective COX-2 inhibiting drugs that do not cause gastric problems characteristic of older NSAIDs.
NSAIDs are also used in the acute pain caused by gout because they inhibit urate crystal phagocytosis besides inhibition of prostaglandin synthase.
NSAIDS have antipyretic activity and can be used to treat fever. Fever is caused by elevated levels of prostaglandin E2, which alters the firing rate of neurons within the hypothalamus that control thermoregulation. Antipyretics work by inhibiting the enzyme COX, which causes the general inhibition of prostanoid biosynthesis (PGE2) within the hypothalamus. PGE2 signals to the hypothalamus to increase the body’s thermal set point. Ibuprofen has been shown more effective as an antipyretic than paracetamol (acetaminophen). Arachidonic acid is the precursor substrate for cyclooxygenase leading to the production of prostaglandins F, D & E.