BACKGROUND: Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly prescribed medications for the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA). Little is known about whether there are important gender differences in NSAID use among patients with OA. OBJECTIVE: To examine gender differences in patterns of NSAID use among older adults (≥65 y) with OA. METHODS: Subjects (n = 11 298) were members of a statewide prescription drug plan who responded to a health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL) survey in 1997 and had a physician diagnosis of OA. Gender differences in patterns of NSAID use were examined over a 2-year period. RESULTS: Approximately one-third of the participants filled at least 1 NSAID prescription during the study. Women were significantly more likely to be prescribed an NSAID than men (37% vs. 30%), had a greater total days' supply of NSAIDs, and were more frequently prescribed NSAIDs with greater degrees of cyclooxygenase-2 selectivity. These gender differences persisted in statistical analyses controlling for demographic factors, HRQOL, and gastrointestinal (GI) risk factors. CONCLUSIONS: Results of this study showed significant gender differences in patterns of NSAID use, and these differences were independent of the risk for GI adverse effects and self-reported symptoms. Further research is needed to examine reasons for these gender variations, as well as their impact on the quality of symptom management.