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Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Discover the powerful benefits of anti-inflammatory drugs - the ultimate solution to reducing pain, fighting inflammation, and improving overall well-being.

USMLE Guide: Anti-inflammatory Drugs


The USMLE guide on Anti-inflammatory Drugs aims to provide medical students and professionals with a comprehensive overview of this important class of medications. This guide will cover the definition, classification, mechanisms of action, common examples, indications, and potential adverse effects of anti-inflammatory drugs.


Anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are a class of medications used to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and lower fever. They are widely prescribed for various conditions, including musculoskeletal disorders, arthritis, and fever.


Anti-inflammatory drugs can be classified into three main groups based on their mechanism of action:

  1. Non-selective NSAIDs: These drugs inhibit both cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzymes, leading to the reduction of prostaglandin synthesis, thus reducing inflammation, pain, and fever. Examples include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.

  2. COX-2 selective NSAIDs: These drugs selectively inhibit COX-2 enzymes, which are primarily involved in the inflammatory response. They have a reduced risk of gastrointestinal adverse effects compared to non-selective NSAIDs. Examples include celecoxib, etoricoxib, and meloxicam.

  3. Acetaminophen: Although not classified as an NSAID, acetaminophen is commonly used as an analgesic and antipyretic. It lacks significant anti-inflammatory properties and does not inhibit COX enzymes.

Mechanisms of Action

Anti-inflammatory drugs primarily exert their effects by inhibiting COX enzymes, leading to decreased prostaglandin synthesis. Prostaglandins play a crucial role in mediating pain, inflammation, and fever. By reducing prostaglandin levels, NSAIDs provide relief from these symptoms.

Common Examples

Some commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs include:

  • Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid)
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Celecoxib
  • Meloxicam
  • Diclofenac
  • Indomethacin


Anti-inflammatory drugs are indicated for various conditions, including:

  • Arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis)
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (sprains, strains)
  • Fever
  • Pain management (headaches, menstrual pain, post-operative pain)

Adverse Effects

While anti-inflammatory drugs are generally safe when used appropriately, they can have potential adverse effects. Some common side effects include:

  • Gastrointestinal effects: NSAIDs can cause gastric ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, and dyspepsia. COX-2 selective inhibitors have a reduced risk of gastrointestinal adverse effects.
  • Renal effects: Prolonged use of NSAIDs can lead to renal toxicity, fluid retention, and decreased renal blood flow.
  • Cardiovascular effects: Some NSAIDs have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as myocardial infarction and stroke.
  • Allergic reactions: Rarely, anti-inflammatory drugs can cause hypersensitivity reactions, including skin rashes, angioedema, and anaphylaxis.


This USMLE guide on anti-inflammatory drugs provides an overview of their definition, classification, mechanisms of action, common examples, indications, and potential adverse effects. Understanding the pharmacology and clinical implications of these medications is essential for medical students and professionals to effectively manage inflammatory conditions and provide optimal patient care.

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