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Home / Drugs / Starting with R / Rofecoxib

On September 30, 2004, Merck voluntarily withdrew rofecoxib from the market because of concerns about increased risk of heart attack and stroke associated with long-term, high-dosage use.
CategoriesCyclooxygenase Inhibitors
Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
ManufacturersMerck research laboratories div merck co inc
PackagersAQ Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Cardinal Health
Direct Dispensing Inc.
Dispensing Solutions
Murfreesboro Pharmaceutical Nursing Supply
Nucare Pharmaceuticals Inc.
PD-Rx Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Redpharm Drug
Southwood Pharmaceuticals
Va Cmop Dallas
SynonymsMK 966
MK 996


For the treatment of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, acute pain in adults, and primary dysmenorrhea, as well as acute treatment of migraine attacks with or without auras.


Rofecoxib, a selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitor, is classified as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Unlike celecoxib, rofecoxib lacks a sulfonamide chain and does not require CYP450 enzymes for metabolism. Like other NSAIDs, rofecoxib exhibits anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activity. NSAIDs appear to inhibit prostaglandin synthesis via the inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX), which are responsible for catalyzing the formation of prostaglandins in the arachidonic acid pathyway. There are at least two isoenzymes, COX-1 and COX-2, that have been identified. Although the exact mechanisms have not been clearly established, NSAIDs exert their anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic primarily through the inhibition of COX-2. The inhibition of COX-1 is principally responsible for the negative effects on the GI mucosa. As rofecoxib is selective for COX-2, it may be potentially associated with a decreased risk of certain adverse events, but more data is needed to fully evaulate the drug.

mechanism of action

The anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic effects of NSAIDs appear to result from the inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis. Although the exact mechanism of action has not been determined, these effects appear to be mediated through the inhibition of the COX-2 isoenzyme at the sites of inflammation with subsequent reduction in the synthesis of certain prostaglandins from their arachidonic acid precursors. Rofecoxib selectively inhibits the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme, which is important for the mediation of inflammation and pain. Unlike non-selective NSAIDs, rofecoxib does not inhibit platelet aggregation. It also has little to no affinity for COX-1.


No overdoses of rofecoxib were reported during clinical trials. Administration of single doses of rofecoxib 1000 mg to 6 healthy volunteers and multiple doses of 250 mg/day for 14 days to 75 healthy volunteers did not result in serious toxicity.


Hepatic. Metabolism of rofecoxib is primarily mediated through reduction by cytosolic enzymes. The principal metabolic products are the cis-dihydro and trans-dihydro derivatives of rofecoxib, which account for nearly 56% of recovered radioactivity in the urine. An additional 8.8% of the dose was recovered as the glucuronide of the hydroxy derivative, a product of oxidative metabolism. The biotransformation of rofecoxib and this metabolite is reversible in humans to a limited extent (< 5%). These metabolites are inactive as COX-1 or COX-2 inhibitors. Cytochrome P450 plays a minor role in metabolism of rofecoxib.


The mean oral bioavailability of rofecoxib at therapeutically recommended doses of 12.5, 25, and 50 mg is approximately 93%.

half life

17 hours

drug interactions

Aminophylline: Rofecoxib increases the effect and toxicity of theophylline

Lithium: The COX-2 inhibitor increases serum levels of lithium

Methotrexate: Rofecoxib increases the levels of methotrexate

Oxtriphylline: Rofecoxib increases the effect and toxicity of theophylline

Theophylline: Rofecoxib increases the effect and toxicity of theophylline