Man with painful hip

Celebrex is a non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It was supposed to be easier on the stomach than other arthritis drugs. But questions about its heart health slowed sales over the last decade.

We recently interviewed Steven Nissen, MD, chairman of the Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.  He supervised the Precision Trial (New England Journal of Medicine, Dec. 29, 2016) . Dr. Nissen told us that Celebrex seemed equivalent to ibuprofen and naproxen vis a vis heart health. Celebrex appeared safer than NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen when it came to kidney and gastrointestinal problems.

Celebrex is now available generically as celecoxib at far less cost. That means many insurance companies encourage patients to buy generic. That would not be a problem except that many people are asking: why is generic celecoxib not working? This reader is fairly typical of many messages we have received:

Q. Over the last six months I have been debilitated with joint pain in my hips, knees, wrists and spine. I suddenly felt very old! Then it dawned on me that the pharmacy switched from sending me Celebrex to sending generic celecoxib. Celecoxib is worthless and my pain has flared to horrific levels.

I can’t afford brand-name Celebrex, but I can buy it cheaper in Canada. That is what I plan to do.

A. Many other visitors to our website have also reported that some generic celecoxib pills are not effective against joint pain. Here are just a few of the many reports we have received.

Readers Report Generic Celecoxib Not Working:

Marilyn in North Carolina shares a very similar experience:

“When I take generic celecoxib, it is as if I am taking nothing. I now pay for brand name Celebrex. The difference was noticeable on day two. Celecoxib is useless for me.”

Linda in Concord, California tried an experiment with similar results:

“I have been taking Celebrex for many years and thought that maybe I was becoming resistant to its effects. Due to insurance I was switched to generic, which in most cases is not a problem.

“I recently discovered I still had a few Celebrex left and did in fact get relief again. I am convinced the generic version is worthless.”

Henk in the Netherlands suggests this is an international problem:

“I used Celebrex and was very pleased with the results. The drug helped ease the pain for longer time in my right hip. When needing new pills they gave me celecoxib. The effect was not good. It didn’t work as good as Celebrex. I started using Celebrex again with a much better result.”

Carole is an Aussie and had a similar experience to Henk:

“While in the USA I had trouble with my hip. I was given a prescription for celecoxib instead of Celebrex. It didn’t work as well as the Celebrex. I wouldn’t get it again. I have used Celebrex on and off for a few years.” Carole from Australia.

Jade in Indiana is a nurse with significant Celebrex experience:

“I’m so thankful that I came across this site! I’ve been on Celebrex for over 10 years due to arthritis in my lower back and knees. I am able to perform my job as a floor nurse without too many aches and pains.

“About six months ago the pharmacy filled my script with the generic and I didn’t realize a switch had been made. I felt horrible for the month I took the generic celecoxib.

“I made a appointment with my physician to tell her how I was feeling and she asked if I was switched to the generic Celebrex. To my surprise I was. I agree with others and thought the same compounds were used in the generic as in the brand. I don’t understand the difference between Celebrex and celecoxib.”

The FDA and Reports that Generic Celecoxib Not Working?

We have notified the Food and Drug Administration on several occasions that people are complaining to us and asking: why is celecoxib not working the way Celebrex did? We do not have an answer and neither, it seems, does the FDA. When people complain about generic drug quality, the FDA has often implied that it is purely psychological.

We spent years arguing with the FDA about a generic version of Wellbutrin XL 300 named Budeprion XL 300. The executives at the agency insisted that the problems people were experiencing on the generic version of Wellbutrin were all in their heads. Eventually the truth came out. A few of the generic formulations were eventually shown to have significant problems. The FDA had to eat crow and requested removal of the faulty generics. Read about this boondoggle here.

Patients Vindicated! Generic Wellbutrin Withdrawn

What Can Patients Do if Celecoxib Not Working:

Here is what we suggested to the original query:

You could purchase Celebrex from a reputable online Canadian pharmacy for substantially less than the brand name in the U.S. A month’s supply of Celebrex in a U.S. chain drugstore could be more than $200 out of pocket. The same brand name medicine in Canada would cost anywhere from $62 to $80. A three-months supply of Celebrex from Canada is substantially less than a one month’s supply from a U.S. drugstore.

What About Phony Online Pharmacies?

If you are nervous about buying from an online Canadian pharmacy we completely get it. There is no guarantee that all online pharmacies are legitimate. There are many examples of fraudsters on the web. If you would like to learn more about the problems of shopping online or how to find a legitimate Canadian pharmacy, our Guide to Saving Money on Medicines can help.

What About Authorized Generics?

Not thrilled with the idea of breaking the law (it is illegal to import drugs from Canada)? An “authorized generic” is another option. Never heard of such a thing? We’re hardly surprised. Many physicians and pharmacists have no idea either.

The FDA does not advertise this concept, although there is a link on the agency website. That’s because the standard line has been that all FDA-approved generic drugs are identical to the brand name medicine. The FDA does not want consumers or insurance companies to lose confidence in its ability to approve generic drugs. But if the FDA were doing such a great job why have we received so many questions along the lines of: why is my generic celecoxib not working?

What Are Authorized Generics?

An authorized generic may be made on the same production line as the brand name medicine. It is then sold to the generic drug company for distribution at a reduced price. In theory, it has the identical ingredients as the brand name medicine and is made with the same equipment.

Another possibility is that the pharmaceutical manufacturer of the branded product licenses the technology and special sauce instructions to the generic company so it can manufacture a virtually identical medicine. Learn more details about authorized generics and products that are available at this link: Save Money Safely with Authorized Generic Drugs.

Save Money Safely With Authorized Generic Drugs

Who Makes An Authorized Generic Celebrex ?

The original manufacturer of brand name Celebrex was Pfizer. (The company still makes Celebrex.) A subsidiary of Pfizer is the generic company Greenstone. Not surprisingly, Greenstone now provides an authorized generic form of Celebrex. This celecoxib should be the same as the original Celebrex. When we asked a representative of Greenstone we were assured that the two products were identical.

We have no horse in this race. We wish we could trust the FDA’s generic drug approval system and recommend all generic celecoxib products. However, we have received so many complaints that we have our doubts. You can read many of the stories at these links:

Does Generic Celecoxib Measure Up to Celebrex?

Pain with Switch from Celebrex to Celecoxib

Generic Celebrex Leaves Many People in Pain

You can learn more about authorized generic products and how to use generic drugs wisely in our Guide to Saving Money on Medicines. You can also read how to determine which Canadian pharmacies are legitimate and how to protect yourself if you go that route. You’ll find it at PeoplesPharmacy.com.

If you prefer to avoid Celebrex and celecoxib and go a more natural route to relieve arthritis pain, you may find our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis even more helpful.

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  1. Purple Shark
    Pennsylvania
    Reply

    I take the generic Celebrex known as Celocoxib. It works well but I still wanted to try turmeric and ginger. I bought 400mg of turmeric, and it worked great. I was experiencing a ton of grief after two unexpected deaths in my family and decided to add in some ginger. Now I find I am experiencing more pain even though I’m still taking the turmeric and Celocoxib. Could the ginger be interfering?

  2. Yvonne
    Florida
    Reply

    I recently starting having to increase my Celebrex dosage…since I’m on TRICARE I didn’t even bother to notice it’s been the generic. The “new” sticker stated, “this is the same medication you have been getting.

    Color, shape or size may appear different.” Different meaning I’m been prescribed the generic version Celecoxib since February. Noticeable difference in lack of pain relief.

  3. EasyEd
    Reply

    Insurance stopped paying for Celebrex. Generics were less than helpful, until I discovered celecobix manufactured by Greenston, the exact duplicate of Celebrex.

  4. Marlyn
    Bucks County Pa
    Reply

    I’ve taken Celebrex for 15+ years. Last summer, 2016, my prescription was filled with generic Celebrex by Mylan Pharmaceuticals. My life, as I knew it, gradually disappeared. It is now May 2017. I thought I was just getting older or I was getting worse, until a friend told me she had the same problem since starting Mylan generic Celebrex. I filed a report with the FDA. I got a prescription for branded Celebrex, and was just about to send it to a Cananadian pharmacy, when that same friend had her script filled with a different generic made by Cipla. I did too. The difference is AMAZING. A generic maker only has to prove 80% effective. Mylans’ generic was 0% effective. There was no anti-inflammatory effect. When there’s inflammation, there is damage and pain. Mylan needs to address this asap.

  5. Jan
    Wisconsin
    Reply

    I was prescribed Celebrex back in August of 2016 for OA by my orthopedist . I could only take one capsule a day due to ulcer irritation. Within a month my feet started to go numb. Toes & ball of foot numbness – like walking on frozen feet. The nerves along the top & outside of my feet had burning tingling especially when flexed. My primary and the podiatrist did not make the connection between the Celebrex and this numbness ordering numerous tests for other possibilities that didn’t make sense to me. After the 1st $700 test I accessed my chart online to see if anything else could be the cause. When I saw the date the Celebrex was prescribed I started a more indepth online investigation of side effects and found only a few sites that listed numbness & tingling in extremities. I’ve been off Celebrex for a month and my feet are almost back to normal. I wish I had a picture of my doctors faces when I told them what my investigation found. The podiatrist told me ‘good catch’. Shouldn’t this be the other way around?

  6. Tom
    Massachusetts
    Reply

    Fantastic information to pass on to my patients (I am a physical therapist). Keep up your great public service.

  7. Pauline
    Calif
    Reply

    The thing that has helped my knee and hip pains the most has been magnesium oil.

    I rub a little on them a day and it keeps the pain away most effectively. It has also reduced the swelling in my knees and the tightness I used to have.

    One has to watch how much magnesium one is taking as magnesium often comes with the calcium supplements and vitamins one takes.One side effect of too much magnesium is that it has a laxative effect.

    Magnesium has many benefits and rubbing it on your skin is a good way for absorption and relieving arthritic knee and hip pains however do check with your doctor if magnesium is ok for you.

    • Pauline
      Reply

      Magnesium oil has also reduced the swelling and pain in my finger joints

    • Curtis
      North Carolina
      Reply

      I am 82, in the past 25 years I was prescribed Vioxx for joint pain, it worked. When it was taken off the market, Celebrex was prescribed. I used it for a few years, then heard about cherry juice. My wife and I have been drinking 5-6 ounces of Old Orchard 100% Tart Cherry juice morning and evening for the past 15 years. Neither of us have any joint pain at all.

  8. Nan
    Florida
    Reply

    Thanks for all the good information. In the early 2000s I started taking Bextra for arthritis and joint pain. It was a miracle drug for me and I was devastated when it was taken off the market. Was given Celebrex as an alternate and although it was not as good as Bextra, it definitely helped. The generic became available about the same time my retiree drug plan was dropped and I had to find a Medicare Part D plan.

    The first generic prescription helped a bit but I noticed that as time went on it wasn’t effective. The copay tripled from the last refill and the capsule was half the size. It doesn’t work at all. Regular Celebrex is too expensive and this scenario is happening with all my prescriptions. I didn’t know about the authorized generic and will try to get that.

  9. Patricia
    Ball Ground, Ga
    Reply

    I have been taking Celebrex for osteoarthritis for about 3 years. I had 2 stents put in my heart in 2013 and my cardiologist told me Celebrex was what I should take and no Aleve or ibruprofen. It has been a lifesaver for me up until the last 2 refills from Express Scripts. The capsules were blue and not white with the gold band and from GSMS.

    I started itching from the blue dye plus it was like taking a placebo. Called ES and then my doctor for a new prescription. I had been getting my prescription from pills made by Avkare and Greenstone. Greenstone makes and ships authorized generics and I have had NO problems with those or the ones from Avkare. I would advise anyone to be watchful for any generic that is colored and not the usual white.

  10. Nanette
    Dallas, Tx
    Reply

    Celecoxib works fine for me, but did not help a friend of mine. When he could not get to his medication because of driving in heavy traffic, the friend with him gave him one of his Meloxicam tablets (generic Celecoxib). It gave him relief in 15 minutes. That is what he took until he had to have knee surgery.

  11. Ray C
    georgia
    Reply

    what the DEA won’t admit, a generic can be from 80% to 120% of the original. I found that out from online research, dr, and a sales rep of pharmaceutical company. For the most part I trust generic, but I would be hesitant of heart med.

    I have a friend who is a professor teaching in the medical field who took a generic and had a allergic reaction, and went back to the original. An above statement the DEA said it was “all in our head”.

    If so, why did my friend have allergic reaction to a generic and not the original? Big pharma giving DEA money to hush things.

  12. linda
    Atlanta, GA
    Reply

    There is no question in my mind that the original Celebrex did a wonderful job on my pain and the generic is not doing much at all. I’ve had the same problem with Cymbalta…the generic is not working as well. My doctor is willing to call my insurance company but I don’t have much hope that he will succeed.

  13. Mel Coleman
    Connecticut
    Reply

    Whats the dosage for each supplements curcumin and bromelain for pain? How many times a day? With or without food..

  14. Anita
    FL
    Reply

    I had the same experience with the generic Celebrex. My insurance refused to approve the brand and the generic was not working at all. My doctor prescribed Mobic 15, generic is Meloxicam. This tablet was unknown to me as it has not been promoted and widely marketed as Celebrex has been. Meloxicam has been very effective, I noticed improvement in 2 days. It is working as good or better than Celebrex, and I paid $2.90, [yes less than $3.00], for 90 tablets. I started using 15mg once a day and then I asked the doctor for the 7.5, so that I could lower the dose and see if it was still effective. I take 7.5 twice a day as needed, sometimes once a day, and I also skip some days without getting the pain back. I will select Meloxicam over Celebrex, if given the option.

  15. Sharon
    NY
    Reply

    I have been/was on Celebrex and the generic for probably 20+ years for RA. The only generic that gave me relief were the capsules with either a yellow or blue stripe. About 3 months ago, I gave up dairy and no longer take Celebrex. I do drink golden milk (almond or coconut milk with a dash of black pepper, a squirt of ginger paste , 1/2 tsp of turmeric in a.m. and p.m. I enjoy your program so much and use it as my university. Thank you so much!

  16. Tony
    Thailand
    Reply

    Generic medicines are exactly the same as brand names and I’m quite sure that it is all a question of being in the head.
    All the poorer countries use generic medication and there has never been any indication that they are any different from brand names. I have used both Celebrex and its generic version and found they work exactly the same. But after a while, using them for a long time, neither of them work well.

    • Sally
      Reply

      No generic medication is not exactly the same. The fillers and inactive ingredients can be different. This might cause an allergy in someone who takes the brand medication without any problems. If you reread this article you will see that some people having problems didn’t even know that they were on a generic.

  17. Ann
    Virginia
    Reply

    I have found that turmeric/curcumin and bromelain to be more effective with no side affects

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