Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and sulfinpyrazone compete dose-dependently with arachidonate for binding to platelet cyclooxygenase. Such a process closely follows systemic plasma drug concentrations and is reversible as a function of drug elimination. Peak inhibition and extent of its reversibility at 24 hr varies consistently with individual pharmacokinetic profile. Inhibition of platelet cyclooxygenase activity by these agents is associated with variable effects on prostaglandin (PG) synthesis in the gastric mucosa and the kidney. Aspirin acetylates platelet cyclooxygenase and permanently inhibits thromboxane (TX) A2 production in a dose-dependent fashion when single doses of 0.1 to 2.0 mg/kg are given. Acetylation of the enzyme by low-dose aspirin is cumulative on repeated dosing. The fractional dose of aspirin necessary to achieve a given level of acetylation by virtue of cumulative effects approximately equals the fractional daily platelet turnover. Serum TXB2 measurements obtained during long-term dosing with 0.11, 0.22, and 0.44 mg/kg aspirin in four healthy subjects could be fitted by a theoretical model assuming identical acetylation of platelet (irreversible) and megakaryocyte (reversible) cyclooxygenase. For a given dose within this range, both the rate at which cumulative acetylation occurs and its maximal extent largely depend upon the rate of platelet turnover. Continuous administration of low-dose aspirin (20 to 40 mg/day) has no statistically significant effect on urinary excretion of either 6-keto-PGF1 alpha or 2,3-dinor-6-keto-PGF1 alpha, i.e., indexes of renal and extrarenal PGI2 biosynthesis in vivo. Whether a selective sparing of extraplatelet cyclooxygenase activity by low-dose aspirin will result in increased antithrombotic efficacy, fewer toxic reactions, or both remains to be established in prospective clinical trials.

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