Pharmaceutical inhibition of COX can provide relief from the symptoms of inflammation and pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, exert their effects through inhibition of COX. Those that are specific to the COX-2 isozyme are called COX-2 inhibitors. The active metabolite (AM404) of paracetamol believed to provide most or all of its analgesic effects is a COX inhibitor and this is believed to provide part of its effect.
In medicine, the root symbol "COX" is encountered more often than "PTGS". In genetics, "PTGS" is officially used for this family of genes and proteins, because the root symbol "COX" was already used for the cytochrome c oxidase family. Thus the two isozymes found in humans, PTGS1 and PTGS2, are frequently called COX-1 and COX-2 in the medical literature. The names "prostaglandin synthase (PHS)", "prostaglandin synthetase (PHS)", and "prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthetase (PES)" are older terms still sometimes used to refer to COX.
In terms of their molecular biology, COX-1 and COX-2 are of similar molecular weight, approximately 70 and 72 kDa, respectively, and having 65% amino acid sequence homology and near-identical catalytic sites. The most significant difference between the isoenzymes, which allows for selective inhibition, is the substitution of isoleucine at position 523 in COX-1 with valine in COX-2. The smaller Val523 residue in COX-2 allows access to a hydrophobic side-pocket in the enzyme (which Ile523 sterically hinders). Drug molecules, such as DuP-697 and the coxibs derived from it, bind to this alternative site and are considered to be selective inhibitors of COX-2.
The main COX inhibitors are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
The classical COX inhibitors are not selective and inhibit all types of COX. The resulting inhibition of prostaglandin and thromboxane synthesis has the effect of reduced inflammation, as well as antipyretic, antithrombotic and analgesic effects. The most frequent adverse effect of NSAIDs is irritation of the gastric mucosa as prostaglandins normally have a protective role in the gastrointestinal tract. Some NSAIDs are also acidic which may cause additional damage to the gastrointestinal tract.