Adverse respiratory reactions to aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Ronald A Simon
Current Allergy and Asthma Reports 2004, 4 (1): 17-24
Aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD) is an adult-onset condition that manifests as asthma, rhinosinusitis/nasal polyps, and sensitivity to aspirin and other cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1)-inhibitor nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). There is no cross-sensitivity to highly selective COX-2 inhibitors. AERD is chronic and does not improve with avoidance of COX-1 inhibitors. The diagnosis of AERD is made through provocative challenge testing. Following a positive aspirin challenge, patients can be desensitized to aspirin and NSAIDs. The desensitized state can be maintained indefinitely with continued daily administration. After desensitization, there is an approximately 48-hour refractory period to adverse effects from aspirin. The pathogenesis of AERD remains unknown, but these patients have been shown to have multiple abnormalities in arachidonic acid metabolism and in cysteinyl leukotriene 1 receptors. AERD patients can take up to 650 mg of acetaminophen for analgesic or antipyretic relief. Patients can also use weak COX-1 inhibitors, such as sodium salicylate or choline magnesium trisalicylate. Treatment of AERD patients with antileukotriene medications has been helpful but not preferential when compared with non-AERD patients. An alternative treatment for many AERD patients is aspirin desensitization. This is particularly effective in reducing upper-airway mucosal congestion, nasal polyp formation, and systemic steroids.

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