Celebrex Deemed Safe for Use
When Celebrex was first introduced to the market in 1999, it seemed like a miracle drug; it could treat pain in patients – much like ibuprofen – but did not cause the serious bleeding and stomach ulcers that other drugs did.
But it wasn’t long before questions about risks of using Celebrex were raised. And 10 years ago, the FDA asked Pfizer – Celebrex’s manufacturer – to find out whether or not taking the drug increased the risk of heart attack. Pfizer has now finished that research, and has emerged with a surprising conclusion: the risk of heart attack when taking Celebrex is no greater when compared with ibuprofen or naproxen.
The study was comprised of 24,000 people, all of whom had arthritis (hence their need for pain management and anti-inflammatory drugs), and all of whom were considered at high risk for heart disease, or had already developed heart disease.
The 24,000 people were divided into three groups: one group was given naproxen, one group ibuprofen, and one group Celebrex. The doses of each drug were equivalent, and neither participants nor researchers were told which patients were taking which drug.
While scientists assumed that the risk of heart attack would be greatest amongst those patients taking Celebrex, the study revealed no increased risk of taking Celebrex when compared to the two other medications. In fact, 2.3 percent of patients taking Celebrex (generic name celecoxib) died from heart disease or hemorrhage, or had a heart attack or stroke, during the study, compared to 2.5 percent of naproxen-taking patients, and 2.7 percent of ibuprofen-taking patients. The study further revealed that those patients taking ibuprofen had poorer kidney function, and that patients taking ibuprofen or naproxen had more gastrointestinal bleeding issues, as well as a higher chance of being hospitalized for high blood pressure. In short, data from the study seems to suggest that Celebrex is safest.
Not So Fast
While raw data from the study may lead a patient or a healthcare practitioner to conclude the Celebrex is safe for use, others caution that further scrutiny of the drug’s safety may be wise. One of the reasons for uncertainty is that the study failed to use a placebo, meaning that while the rate of heart attack and other complications when taking Celebrex was compared to the use of other drugs, it was not compared to a drug-free approach (i.e. is the rate of heart attack amongst Celebrex-using patients higher than it is amongst the general population?). One doctor told The New York Times that he would “not feel comfortable” in stating that taking celebrex is perfectly safe, especially if the drug is needed for a longer period of time, such as more than a couple of months.
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