If you watch the current commercial for Celebrex (celecoxib) prepare to be amazed. You will find it on the Celebrex.com website.

The manufacturer starts with an interesting message about simple physics:

“A body at rest tends to stay at rest while a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Staying active can actually ease arthritis symptoms.”

No one can complain about that message. We all want to stay active and the idea that Celebrex can provide 24-hour relief from arthritis pain “so moving is easier” is appealing. But then comes the catch:

“All prescription NSAIDs, like CELEBREX, ibuprofen, naproxen, and meloxicam have the same cardiovascular warning. They all may increase the chance of heart attack or stroke which can lead to death. This chance increases if you have heart disease or risk factors, such as high blood pressure or when NSAIDs are taken for long periods.”

“NSAIDs, including CELEBREX increase the chance of serious skin or allergic reactions or stomach and intestinal problems such as bleeding and ulcers which can occur without warning and may cause death. Patients also taking aspirin and the elderly are at increased risk for stomach bleeding and ulcers.”

“Do not take CELEBREX if you’ve had an asthma attack, hives, or other allergies to aspirin, NSAIDs or sulfonamides. Get help right away if you’ve had swelling of the face or throat or trouble breathing.”

Are you as amazed as we are that that after all that they have the temerity to suggest: “Ask your doctor about Celebrex for a body in motion”? Seriously, they want people to ask for a prescription medicine that “may increase the chance of heart attack or stroke which can lead to death.” As if that isn’t bad enough, you are supposed to ignore the possibility of bleeding and ulcers “which can occur without warning and may cause death.”

We have to assume that this ad is working or else the company would not be spending millions of dollars on television commercials. It does astonish us, though. Do viewers just tune out the announcer when he describes these dire consequences and instead tune in to the happy and active actors? Or do people just assume that these serious complications are irrelevant to them and only happen to others, so they are nothing to be concerned about.

Well, it turns out that Celebrex is related to the arthritis drug Vioxx, that was removed from the market for the very reason that it led to tens of thousands of heart attacks. We have always wondered why Celebrex seems to have avoided the fate of its competitor and is now being promoted aggressively. The same people who suffer from arthritis (older people) are the most likely to experience bleeding ulcers.

So…what’s someone with arthritis to do? We think NSAIDs should be reserved for the last resort and should be taken intermittently (to let the stomach heal periodically from insult from such drugs). We do recommend a wide range of alternative approaches to arthritis pain. They include:

• Turmeric (curcumin)
• Tart cherry juice or cherry concentrate
• Pomegranate juice
• Almonds
• Olive oil
• Walnuts
• Blueberries
• Salmon
• Bluefish
• Ginger
• Vitamin D
• Gin-soaked raisins
• Certo & grape juice
• Apple cider vinegar, apple & grape juice
• Boswellia
• Fish oil & green-lipped mussels
• Acupuncture

You can learn more about these options in our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis or Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy or Quick & Handy Remedies. You might also like to take advantage of our very special holiday offer (good through 12/19/12). Buy The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies and get 50% off Recipes & Remedies from The People’s Pharmacy with lots of delicious suggestions for anti-inflammatory meals. You can find all our books and our holiday “bundles” in the People’s Pharmacy Store.

If you have had good luck with Celebrex without side effects, we would like to hear from you. If you have had problems with Celebrex or other NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen or meloxicam we would also like to hear your story. Please comment below.

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  1. Shary

    I have a lot of all-over pain. I’ve had RSD in all my fingers. Thankfully it went away but took over a year. Ankylosing Spondylitis seems to run in the family, so I might have that. Doctors chalk it all up to “arthritis”, which is a catch-all for the medical profession, but when I had an injured meniscus MRI’d a few years ago, the orthopedic surgeon said there wasn’t much arthritis at all. If I don’t have it in my achy knees, then I probably don’t have much anywhere else either.

    Might be I have MPS–who knows? The doctors sure don’t know. My GP wants me to take Celebrex from now until I die, but the efficacy wears off after a few days. I find I do just as well with generic ibuprofen, which is a lot cheaper and probably fewer side effects since I don’t take much. A half a tablet twice a day takes the edge off the pain enough to (mostly) go on about my life.

    I’ve gone gluten-free as of about a week ago, which might help. I eat a very clean diet and drink tart cherry juice daily; I have ordered some high potency boswellia hoping to be able to get off all pain meds. I also get a very gentle form of physical therapy call IMT which helps quite a bit.

  2. Ed

    My dad died at 58, two weeks after starting Celebrex for elbow pain. The hour before he had a very bad blood blister rash on his chest. He and my mom agreed he would go to the doctor later that day when they returned from Mexico. — they didn’t make it — so when they say if you get a bad rash, contact your doctor immediately, might as well call an ambulance. It was 11 years ago. He never got to meet three of his grandsons, etc. he was healthy, walked up three flights of stairs to his condo without getting winded — anyway, the DEATH side effect is real, especially to those left behind.

    • maria

      Agreed…it is 2 years since I have lost a loved one to a massive heart attack. It was very sudden and he took celebrex daily. Very painful. Prayers to anyone in this situation

  3. LYNND

    I incurred a back injury over a decade ago, after which I took a lot of prescription NSAIDs. Before the news came out on Celebrex, I remember experiencing chest pain while taking it. Eventually I developed stomach erosions and hives in response to any and all NSAIDs, as well as Aspirin-sensitive asthma. Some 10 years after stopping the offending drugs, my stomach pain had not subsided and my back pain control was the worse for no longer having access to anti-inflammatory medications.
    It wasn’t until I began taking Turmeric with Boswellia for my back pain that instead I ended up with an “all-clear” on my upper endoscopy. A gastric erosion that had lingered for years entirely disappeared. If I stop the turmeric, the stomach pain begins to creep back so I take it religiously now. I am not entirely certain how much good it has done for my back pain, but I swear by turmeric for my GI tract!
    Because I experience chronic pain associated with degenerative discs and fibro, I take other supplements in addition to the turmeric, boswellia, cherry juice and ginger listed above. For a multi-ingredient formula with excellent research to back it, many people swear by a product called Zyflammend by New Chapter. My personal quest for improved inflammation control has also led me to the following, which I share in the hope that it may help others:
    — Digestive Enzymes (serrapeptidase, bromelain and others)
    — Holy Basil
    — Hops
    — Quercetin
    — EFAs (Borage Oil and EPA/DHA from fish oil, such as Omegagenics)
    — EFAC (an esterified fatty acid complex such as Celedrin or cetyl myristoleate)
    — Cat’s Claw
    — Devil’s Claw
    — Reservatol derived from polygonum cuspidatum, also known as Hu Zhang.
    — Pycnogenol
    — Apple Cider Vinegar and/or Malic Acid
    — D-Ribose (for fibro fatigue)
    — MSM
    — 5-HTP
    — Sublingual B Vitamins
    — Probiotics
    — 15-20 minutes per day of direct sunshine, for vitamin D and reduced stress.
    — Adequate amounts of sleep, exercise, water, magnesium and potassium.

  4. Lori

    betty45, I am very interested in your comment that your pain started after treatment for breast cancer. The same thing happened to me; I had a number of really awful side effects from chemo (taxol-type drugs) that I completed in 2011, including peripheral neuropathy that continues to get worse, and joint pain that also continues to get worse and has now been recently diagnosed by a rheumatologist as psoriatic arthritis, which is an auto-immune disorder. The psoriasis is annoying but mild (mostly on feet and ankles) but the arthritis continues to get worse and is on the verge of becoming debilitating, especially in my hands. I have insisted to my oncologist that this is also a side effect of chemo and asked if there was anything he could do, but he just laughs it off.

  5. PM

    I sympathize with you. I have much of the same problems but I force myself to live with the pain and stiffness and only take drugs as a last resort. I haven’t found anything to help but I haven’t tried any alternatives like acupuncture etc. because of the cost.

  6. Barbara P.

    I have been taking celebrex for approximately 5 years, I have had no problems, I get a blood test twice a year especially to check my liver. I find that after not taking celebrex for three or four days I start to feel a pulling pain on my back. I am afraid to stop taking this drug.
    Since it is only 15% or 20% of something happening, I am going to continue taking this drug. I am 75 years old.
    I am very active, I play tennis, walk 3 miles three times a week, work out on a bicycle machine and do stretching exercise every morning.

  7. bettty45

    I had pain for 12 years since I has breast cancer and all the treatment for it. I have tried many mess for pain including all over the counter meds. Celebrex has been a miracle drug for me. I take 200 mg once a day with meals and have had no side effects. I am 59 years old and take no other meds other than supplements like fish oil and vitamin D. I feel that quality of life is important and that being on this one med has changed my life so I am staying with it. I will watch for signs and consult with my doc but I have to say right now I would be hard pressed to change.

    • Shary

      I’ve found that Celebrex has a very bad rebound effect for me. I try not to take it for more than a few days at a time, otherwise, when I stop taking it I hurt worse than ever–a lot worse!!

  8. RDW

    My older sister took Celebrex for awhile and went into total liver failure. She turned yellow and swelled up. The doctors in the hospital finally figured out it was the Celebrex and stopped it. She did recover eventually but liver failure is another side effect.

  9. Mondena

    My thought is that many people ignore the risks because they believe them to be very rare. These types of warnings should come with the likelihood of adverse effects (e.g. 10% suffer strokes or heart attacks, 15% experience stomach bleeding) to allow the user to make an informed choice.

  10. Cathy

    Thank you for inspiring people to learn to take care of themselves, and for helping people get the information they need to take control of their own health.

  11. DS

    Yes, this ad is pretty amazing. If you die after taking Celebrex I guess they can say to the family, “we warned you.” Another ad running concurrently is for Nexium, telling us that our doctor is the expert and to listen to the doctor. Of course, the only thing the doctor “knows” about reflux is what the drug rep has told him/her. I am the expert on MY body, and although there are times when my doctor has helped a lot, he is not infallible.

  12. Tom H.

    I took Celebrex for over 10 years without any undesirable side effects. However, I was beginning to experience diminishing relief and had discussed it with my doctor. When I changed insurance plans the new plan would not cover Celebrex unless I tried 3 other medications such as meloxicam, ibuprofen, etc. My doctor suggested I take 3 to 4 fish oil capsules a day and see what happened. One capsule taken three times a day provided significant relief, equal to what I had experienced with Celebrex. Then I read your article about gin soaked raisins and tried them. I now have less pain and discomfort than I ever did with Celebrex. Three fish oil capsules and nine raisins a day do the trick.

  13. bobbie c.

    Just endorsed my belief that these drugs that they are touting as the next best thing since sliced white bread (also not good for you) are crazy. Have you heard the caveats that come with most of the drugs that are on the market? To me the side effects are worse than the symptoms of the diseases and some of the diseases are bad enough. I am going as natural as possible and really don’t think that I will be any worse off than if I take the drugs. I think that the worst ones are the ones that seem to compromise your immune system or that say they can cause cancer. Really? I want that in my system WHY? Whether the drug kills me or the disease what difference does it make I’m still dead.

  14. P>M>

    I have used Vioxx in the past and currently use Celebrex occasionally. I also suffered a heart attack. Was it a result of taking these drugs? I don’t know but all drugs I see advertised carry a similar if not identical warning. Some are even more ominous. My conclusion is that anyone can have a adverse reaction to any drug but the majority will not and the manufacturers are simply trying to avoid lawsuits by giving these warnings which put the onus on the users to prove they were not aware of the possibility of any adverse reaction even if it had nothing at all to do with the drug.

  15. O.G.

    Since I don’t have television (by choice) I haven’t seen the Celebrex ad, but I am certainly aware of, and concerned about, the dangers of NSAIDs. I have been on one or another for years for osteoarthritis (Celebrex simply stopped working, so I currently take generic Voltaren) and am getting more worried about NSAIDs as I age.
    My problem (besides also being diagnosed this year with LADA diabetes, which unfortunately precludes remedies like gin-soaked raisins) is that when I try to ease off the medication, I freeze up like the Tin Woodman in “The Wizard of Oz” without his oil can. I am currently using Turmeric, take Vitamin D-3, eat almonds and blueberries, use olive oil almost exclusively and take a vegetarian fish oil supplement in addition to insulin and Metformin for the diabetes.
    Maybe it’s a case not of how bad I still feel, but of how much worse I’d feel without the NSAIDs: a medical “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. Has anyone else had success with acupuncture, boswellia, or any of the other diabetic-friendly non-NSAID remedies for arthritis pain? If so, please share your successes with those of us who are in need of non-NSAID relief.

  16. C.F.S.

    In the past I have had this discussion about the side effects of prescription drugs with many friends, and everyone has agreed that many times the side effects are worse then the condition they are supposed to relieve. My doctor who’s education was most likely paid for by a pharmaceutical company, informed me that perhaps one in a thousand may have these side effects. I am not lucky in the lottery or any other gambling, I might just be that 1000’th person.
    Many of our friends have had to stop their meds do to these side effects, therefore we choose the natural way first. The problem with most who try this way do not make the effort to stick with the plan and if you do not make it a life changing practice it will not work. You can try to talk to your doctor about this plan, but most who write prescriptions will not listen and tell you that the natural way has not been proven by the FDA to work. I also have friends who have returned from other countries that have cured their condition, or put them on a plan that will lead them to a drug free life style.

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