People with arthritis frequently rely on medication to fight the pain and inflammation of their condition. When a drug works well, they stick with it. It can be a disappointment to discover that a different formulation of the same drug doesn’t offer the same relief. That is what this reader reports:
Q. The Celebrex I’ve been taking for ten years has kept my arthritis in check. Last month, the insurance plan switched me from Celebrex to celecoxib.
I was pleased with the cost savings at first. But now it has been a month and I have realized that my hands are extremely swollen in the mornings and my knees are very sore. I am an avid golfer and was wondering if I would have to give it up due to the pain.
I just realized that this coincided with the switch to the generic celecoxib. Pain is a high price to pay for savings! I plan to fight to get back on the brand name.
From Celebrex to Celecoxib:
A. Sometimes generic drugs are a great solution to the problem of high prescription prices. At other times, as you point out, the savings are not worth the suffering. You may need to see if a different generic manufacturer makes a celecoxib pill that works to alleviate your pain and keep you on the golf course.
We are sending you our Guide to Saving Money on Medicine with information on the pros and cons of generic drugs, ideas on how to use them wisely and our ten top tips for saving money on medicine.
You might also be interested in our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis, which offers some nondrug approaches as well as a few medications you might not have tried yet.
Similar Stories from Other Readers
You are not the first person to report problems with generic Celebrex. At last count we have received over 100 messages from people regarding their experience with celecoxib. We passed them along to an executive at the FDA with the following message:
“Several years ago we received a very strong signal that there were problems with generic Wellbutrin [an antidepressant]. It took years to convince the FDA that our readers were not imagining the problems they were having on Teva’s Budeprion XL 300. I do believe that you now trust us when we say that was a strong signal and deserved careful follow up. [The FDA ultimately called for removal of Budeprion XL 300.]
Celebrex vs celecoxib:
“We are now getting a strong signal regarding generic Celebrex. We have mentioned this to the FDA before, but we have received pretty much the same response we received when we began notifying the agency about Budeprion XL 300…silence.
“Below are just some of the messages we have received from patients regarding celecoxib. We do not know what the problem is, but we strongly suspect that there IS a problem.
“We are not especially fans of Celebrex or celecoxib, but we believe that the sheer volume of complaints merits some very careful analysis at the FDA regarding the generic formulations. Something is not right.
“How many case reports will it take to get the ball rolling on an investigation into generic celecoxib? And yes, we recognize that most of the reports below do not mention a manufacturer. That is largely because it is very hard to find a manufacturer listed on the label of most generic drug bottles. Perhaps if there were an organized effort to require pharmacies to place the manufacturer, expiration date and lot number in a prominent place in a font large enough to read it would make it easier for patients to submit complaints to MedWatch.”
We cannot quote the FDA exec directly, but the gist of the message was, these are anecdotal reports. The agency response boils down to the argument that they cannot substantiate such reports.
We also frequently hear from the FDA that the generic data is “proprietary.” In other words, they cannot release bioequivalence curves or generic drug data because it is a deep dark secret. That means physicians, pharmacists and patients cannot see for themselves whether the drugs are in truth bioequivalent. The FDA’s argument boils down to: trust us…we’re the FDA and we know what we are doing, but we will not let you see what we are doing because it is a secret.
A Few Case Reports:
You can read a few of the “anecdotes” we sent on to the FDA. What do you think? Is this all imaginary?
Louis from Maryland:
“I play guitar. The pain and range of motion with arthritis can take its toll on the fingers. I was used to taking CELEBREX every other day or every 2 days as directed by my PCP [primary care provider]. It was a “take when needed” proposition.
“I was slipped the generic version of Celebrex about 2 months ago and my hands were hurting more and more every week. I started taking a pill every day until I realized that I was taking generics. I went to my PCP and got that corrected. She gave me a sample box and WHAT A DIFFERENCE. Simply a shame what is allowed to happen in the marketplace.”
Carol in New York:
“I have posted before but have a continuing saga of the use of generic Celebrex. I finally got name brand Celebrex using the coupon from the manufacturer, thanks to this site. I also finally saw a rheumatologist who had me take an MRI.
“My pain on the generic affected not only my joints, but my muscles and nerves. I had very severe pain down my legs. I had to go for multiple medical tests, and sleep on a recliner instead of my new bed, which I bought to help my back problem after taking the generic.
“Now that I have taken the name brand for a few weeks, things seem to be easing up. Thank you for allowing others to share their information. I am now hopeful that my arthritis pain will soon be much more manageable.”
Norma in Arizona:
“I have been taking Celebrex for over 10 years, and it has kept my arthritis in check. Last month my insurance plan changed it to celecoxib.
“I was happy at first for the cost savings it allowed, BUT it has been 4 weeks, and I have realized that my pain is due to swollen hands in the morning and an aching in my knee replacement and other joints. I am an avid golfer and was seriously thinking of giving it up due to my hands hurting so badly.
“For me the savings of money is not worth the pain. I plan to fight to get back my Celebrex.”
Bessie in North Carolina:
“I began taking Celebrex five years ago for my osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease. I experienced effective results.
“Because of a change in my Rx plan, I was switched to generic Celebrex in May 2015. By early June, my joints, lower back and neck were ‘on fire’. I had no idea it was related to my change to the generic Celebrex. I replaced a one year old mattress; replaced a year old bed pillow; purchased a different recliner; went to a podiatrist and returned to my physical therapist.
“After finding little to no relief, along with making other lifestyle changes for a three month period, my physical therapist recommended returning to the brand name. I experienced immediate relief after the first day of returning to Celebrex brand name. The generic, made by the same manufacturer, caused me three months of exhausting pain!”
You can read a great many more stories about celecoxib problems at this link.
Bottom Line from The People’s Pharmacy:
We have no love affair with Celebrex. We take NO money from the manufacturer. We take NO money from any drug manufacturer. We do not have a horse in the race. All we do is report what we hear from our visitors and an awful lot of people have complained about generic Celebrex (celecoxib). The FDA would like this all to go away and blame it on the psychological susceptibility of patients. That’s pretty much what the FDA did when we reported problems with generic Wellbutrin XL 300. Well, we believe our readers. In the case of Budeprion XL 300 they were proved right.
Please let the FDA know how you have made out on generic Celebrex or any generic drug for that matter. The way to report problems is by going to the FDA’s MedWatch link: www.FDA.gov/MedWatch. The FDA wants to know the manufacturer of problem celecoxib so that staffers can presumably look for trends. It may be hard to find who the drug maker is on your pill bottle, but if you look closely you may locate it. If you can’t find it, contact the pharmacy and ask them what company made your generic celecoxib.
We would also appreciate it if you would let us know how you made out on this generic drug. If you have had a positive experience, we want to know that. If you have had a negative experience, we want to know that.
You can do so by giving us a quick overview in the comment section below. We will do our best to pass your story on to the FDA executive who seems convinced that there are no substantive data to suggest there is a problem.
The FDA has a hard time believing that there are ever problems with generic drugs. Of course doing so might upset the carefully constructed story that all generic drugs are fine and dandy and absolutely identical to their brand name counterparts.