Which medications in the drug class Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are used in the treatment of Reactive Arthritis?

Updated: Dec 24, 2020
  • Author: Carlos J Lozada, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Several NSAIDs are available for relief of mild to moderate pain in ReA patients. They are similar with respect to effectiveness, though indomethacin may be more effective in the spondyloarthropathies. Cyclooxygenase (COX)-2–specific inhibitors can be used in patients at high risk for GI complications.

NSAIDs have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic activities. Their mechanism of action is not fully known, but they may inhibit COX activity and prostaglandin synthesis. Other mechanisms, such as inhibition of leukotriene synthesis, lysosomal enzyme release, lipoxygenase activity, neutrophil aggregation, and various cell membrane functions, may exist.

Aspirin and several NSAIDs are available for use in ReA patients and are comparably effective in treating symptoms.

Aspirin (Ascriptin, Bayer Aspirin, Bayer, Bufferin, Ecotrin Arthritis Strength)

Aspirin is a short-acting anti-inflammatory agent with rapid absorption in the proximal gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It is optimally effective only when stable serum levels of 150-250 µg/L are achieved after 3-5 days of treatment. Serum aspirin levels can be checked after 5-10 days of treatment. Maximal anti-inflammatory action is generally achieved within 2-4 weeks, with some further benefit occurring up to 3 months.

Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, NeoProfen, Addaprin)

Ibuprofen inhibits inflammatory reactions and pain by decreasing prostaglandin synthesis.

Indomethacin (Indocin)

Indomethacin is the NSAID of choice in ReA; however, other NSAIDs are often effective as well. It is rapidly absorbed; metabolism occurs in the liver via demethylation, deacetylation, and glucuronide conjugation. Indomethacin inhibits prostaglandin synthesis; it is also a potent COX inhibitor, and this action may decrease local production of arachidonic acid–derived chemotactic factors for eosinophils present in sebum.

Naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve, Naprelan)

Naproxen is used for relief of mild-to-moderate pain and is available in both short-acting and long-acting forms. It inhibits inflammatory reactions and pain by decreasing the activity of COX, which is responsible for prostaglandin synthesis.

Diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam XR, Zipsor, Cambia)

Diclofenac inhibits prostaglandin synthesis by decreasing COX activity, which, in turn, decreases formation of prostaglandin precursors.


Ketoprofen is used for relief of mild to moderate pain and inflammation. Small dosages are indicated initially in small patients, elderly patients, and patients with renal or liver disease. Doses higher than 75 mg do not increase the therapeutic effects. Administer high doses with caution, and closely observe the patient's response.

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