If you watch television you have probably seen the current Celebrex commercial. It starts with a picture book of a woman sitting in a lounge chair at the beach waving to friends. The pages flip quickly as the voice-over says, “It’s 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.”
It’s a compelling message and the attractive middle-aged woman is seen moving from the chair to water’s edge and then into the water. As she swims out to join her friends in an idyllic setting, the pages flip faster until you see her swimming full frame. There’s a boat and a beautiful dog that jumps off the boat and swims out to meet her. Everyone is having a fabulous time and the message seems to be that Celebrex will provide 24-hour relief from pain and inflammation so that you too could be moving easier, as active and happy as this woman. Just as the woman throws the ball to the gorgeous yellow Labrador retriever, the announcer starts sharing the following scary side effects:
“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 like Celebrex increase the chance of serious skin or allergic reactions or stomach and intestine 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. Don’t take Celebrex if you have bleeding in the stomach or intestines or had an asthma attack, hives, other allergies to aspirin, NSAIDs or sulfonamides. Get help right away if you have swelling of the face or throat or trouble breathing.”
While this complicated message is rapidly being delivered, the woman and her companions are swimming, playing with the dog, smiling and generally having a wonderful time. We suspect that beautiful images tend to counteract worrisome messages. How can you take a warning that says “may increase the chance of heart attack or stroke which can lead to death” seriously when a dog is swimming towards you to retrieve a tennis ball and the woman is smiling?
You are told that serious skin or stomach problems “can occur without warning and may cause death.” Such complications are more likely to affect the very people who are targets of the commercial, the elderly and people with arthritis. These are individuals who are also more likely to have heart disease and high blood pressure, the very risk factors that make them vulnerable to a fatal drug reaction.
People with arthritis don’t just have pain and inflammation for a few days or weeks. This is a chronic condition, so the warning that heart attack or stroke are more likely if drugs like Celebrex (NSAIDs) are “taken for long periods of time” seems inadequate. The very people who are likely to take such drugs for long periods of time are then put at greater risk for a deadly drug reaction.
It turns out that Celebrex is related to the arthritis drug Vioxx that was removed from the market because it led to thousands of heart attacks. The makers of Celebrex are being very transparent and telling people up front that this is a real risk. We wonder, though, whether viewers are paying careful attention. Airing such a commercial over and over costs tens of millions of dollars. It must be paying off. According to industry insiders, Celebrex took in nearly $2 billion last year, making it one of Pfizer’s biggest sellers.
CELEBREX (CELECOXIB) SIDE EFFECTS:
- Digestive upset, abdominal pain, heartburn, diarrhea, nausea, gas, constipation, reflux, gastritis,
- Headache, dizziness, vertigo, back pain
- Sore throat, runny nose, sinusitis, upper respiratory tract infection
- Skin rash (this is a serious symptoms and must be reported to a doctor immediately!)
- Irregular heart rhythms, palpitations
- High blood pressure, chest pain (angina)
- Fluid retention, swelling of hands or feet
- Hearing difficulties, tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Liver or kidney function changes (abnormal lab results), kidney damage, liver damage
- Sensitivity to sunlight (sunburn)
- Ulcers, bleeding ulcers, perforated ulcers (a potentially life-threatening complication)
- Heart attack, stroke
- Congestive heart failure
- Allergic reaction, difficulty breathing
- Blood disorders, blood clots, pulmonary embolism, anemia
DRUG INTERACTIONS WITH CELEBREX:
No one should ever take any other medications with Celebrex without double-checking with the prescriber and the pharmacist. Here are just a few drugs that may cause complications when combined with Celebrex:
- Aspirin and other NSAIDs (such as diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen)
- Anticoagulants (such as warfarin, known by the brand name Coumadin)
- Blood pressure drugs such as ACE inhibitors or ARBs
- Furosomide (Lasix)
As appealing as the Celebrex commercials may be, we think that NSAIDs should be reserved as a last resort for pain and inflammation and should be used intermittently rather than daily. Here are some natural approaches for controlling pain and inflammation:
- Turmeric (curcumin)
- Tart cherry juice or cherry concentrate
- Pomegranate juice
- Olive oil
- Salmon • Bluefish
- Vitamin D
- Gin-soaked raisins
- Certo & grape juice
- Apple cider vinegar, apple & grape juice
- Fish oil & green-lipped mussels
To learn more about how to use such foods and remedies we offer our People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. You can also learn more in our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. Please share your own experience with arthritis remedies below. How have such approaches worked for you? Has Celebrex or other NSAIDs been helpful without causing side effects? Share your own story in the comment section. Here are just a few reader reactions:
“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.” P. M.
“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?” Bobbie
“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.” D.S.
“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 to allow the user to make an informed choice.” Modena
“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.” R.D.W.