The People's Perspective on Medicine

Pain with Switch from Celebrex to Celecoxib

Switching from brand-name Celebrex to celecoxib resulted in more pain and swelling and threatened to ruin this reader's golf game.

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.”

FDA’s Response:

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: 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.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I’ve been taking Celebrex ever since Vioxx was removed from the market. It is not quite as good as Vioxx but it good. I have severe arthritis along with peripheral neuropathy and am still experiencing headaches from a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Like many others my insurance switched me to the generic . My pharmacy filled my prescription with Teva celecoxib. I knew with the first pill that it did not work. It didn’t even work a little bit. Nothing. In three days I was on Norco where I remained until I obtained celecoxhib manufactured by Greenstone. Every compound pharmacy in the area told me this was the only manufacturer they used based upon their customers feedback. I could tell it would work the first time I took it. So what is the difference? I don’t know but there definitely is something going on here.

File a claim with the FDA. I did. The more they get, the more likely they will look into this. Celebrex allowed me to have a life. Generic Celebrex from Milan Pharm. has taken that away. FILE! 2/16/2017

I have been taking Celebrex for over 10 years for both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. I lived a relatively pain free life until a year ago when my pharmacy dispensed Celecoxib and I did not immediately realize it. My hands and feet started to swell, I had severe back and hip pain. I had an MRI of the lumbosacral spine which was generally negative and actually showed an improvement in disc bulging from the prior year. YET I WAS IN SEVERE PAIN. I had not been able to sleep at night, changed pillows, position, started taking Advil and visited various physicians in search of an answer. Finally, one told me that he had a number of patients who did not get the same relief from the generic form of Celebrex as with the name brand. I could not believe it!!! Doesn’t the FDA represent that they are the same formula??? and should perform the same??? My insurance company wants me to pay a $300 copay for a 30 day supply. I was paying a $20 copay with the non effective generic brand. This is unconscionable. I pay a lot for good health insurance and cannot get the drug I need to take at a reasonable co pay! How do we get this changed?

I have been taking Celebrex for 30+ years and just recently obtained a refill. I was told the look of the pill had changed but not the content. After several days, I noticed no relief from my symptoms and commenced investigating. While the pharmaceutical company producing the drug had not changed, the NDC # had. The pharmacist told me the change could be caused by a number of reasons but stated the content should have remained the same. I’m doing more research, however I am here to tell you that my current prescription IS NOT WORKING and I feel the FDA really needs to look into this. I have requested a new prescription from my doctor requesting “brand” name and not generic; we shall see what happens!

This comment is an addendum to a previous comment made earlier today. I just got back from the pharmacy and after discussing the situation further, I discovered that the new “not working” generic prescription was made in India, while the previous Celebrex generic prescriptions were made in Singapore. Same pharmaceutical company, different locations. A review of the FDA website has indicated there have been many problems associated with manufacturing done in India. We can add this to the list! Come on FDA, overseer of the safety of the public…DO SOMETHING!!!!

I was on Celebrex for knee arthritis for 2 years , before the generic came out. It absolutely does not work. I get better relief by taking 2 alleve, which is still not strong enough. I have tried 3 different pharmacies, hoping one would work. None did. I have had no problem with other generic drugs, just generic Celebrex. Very frustrating that so many people now have to suffer because these generic drugs are allowed to claim to be just as good, but are NOT.

I have been on Celebrex for several years for arthritis. Due to insurance reasons I can now only get generic Celecoxib. Immediately upon the use of the generic my hands swelled. I can barely turn my neck, and my knees are also swollen. The pharmacy assured me the generic is the same drug but then why did inflammation suddenly appear with the switch. This is very frustrating. Maybe retired people need to return to work so they can pat $450 a month for celebrex. Don’t know where to turn.

Four years ago I went to my doctor and told her I was too young to feel this bad. My fingers hurt to make a fist, my knees and back hurt when I walked, I was buying new shoes and inserts every few months because my feet hurt so bad when I walked. After I sitting for awhile, I had to hold onto something to help me start walking because I felt like I was going to fall . She prescribed Celebrex, and my life changed! I no longer had to buy new shoes every few months or use insets at all! I could get up and walk without the fear of falling, my fingers no longer hurt. No more knee or back pain, and I felt great! I was 57 years old at that time and have Osteoarthritis. Now…..I’m 61 and have been switched to genertic now because of my insurance. The one I’m on is made by Teva 7166, printed on the capsule. I feel like I did 4 years ago before I started taking Celebrex. My hands are swelling again, I can’t make a fist, my knees and back hurts, and I’m back to the fear of falling when I stand up. Did any of the drug companies even test their product before releasing it? I might as well be taking a sugar pill, because it is doing nothing for my pain! How many complaints are needed before anyone looks into this.

I requested NEVER to be given generic celebrex again from my mail order pharmacy. It does NOT work. I finally had the real thing, and was fine. I had a new bottle of pills sent, and three days later, I am miserable. I called the pharmacy and discovered that there is NO way for me to know that the celebrex I am taking is generic or not—-crazy. The reason, they tell me, is that the same company makes the generic, in some cases, as well as the brand. This is not right. I want to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what I am taking. Surely, this is illegal. Please somebody tell me what to do.

I have been taking Celebrex 200 mg for 20 years with much success. the last time I had my prescription filled I was sent generic Celebrex. my pain level has increased severely since I started taking the generic version. I have very bad arthritis in my back and also throughout my entire body. I am on Coumadin and cannot use anything but Celebrex for my pain. the generic just doesn’t work. the price difference is $10 for 90 days vs/ $270. for regular Celebrex. is there a way I can get a price break or do I have to pay the 270? the insurance companies ( or whoever does the price fixing) has no conception of what it is like to live in pain 24/7. please help

I hate to insult the people with arthritis pain by assuming they haven’t looked into everything they can, but all I can say is: I’ve broken 42+ bones in my body, mainly doing sports, and I’ve had many many soft-tissue injuries as well. EVERY doctor has warned me to expect massive arthritic symptoms as I age, but at 67 I’m stronger than ever, an expert skier and hiker. I credit fish oil and hyaluronic acid, both of which lubricate the joints. For years I took condroitin/glucosamine sulfate but stopped because study results didn’t seem to support a benefit. I also religiously eat gin-soaked raisins and if any pain flares up, I add grape juice with certo. The combination of all this has really served me well and anyone who hasn’t tried some of these simple fixes should definitely do so. Nuthin’ to lose…

Due to insurance I was prescribed celecoxib . Used to taking Celebrex due to back pain. One tablet every 3 days would keep me pain free. After daily using celecoxib pain spread down to hips and legs and I still have pain in back. Celecoxib does not perform like Celebrex in managing pain.

Turmeric Curcumin has relieved my knee pain completely.

Apparently CELEBREX is the superior arthritis drug, but isn’t it responsible for a higher percentage of strokes and heart attacks?

The FDA is so frustrating and the website is cumbersome to use. They continually send warning letters and issue recalls for drugs made in India by Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories. There was a problem with an epilepsy drug. Can you imagine how scary it must be when somebody has epilepsy and the drug isn’t working properly ?

And we just continue to import these drugs from India. I don’t take anything made by this lab, and am fortunate to have a small neighborhood pharmacy that will help me avoid drugs made by this lab.

There is a website with a section called Pill Identifier. You simply put the code letter and numbers or whatever is imprinted on a pill, the shape of the pill, and the color, to find out who the manufacturer is. I double check every thing before I take it, and also search for problems and recalls after I confirm who the manufacturer is.

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