Celebrex and the Heart

A panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently had some good news for users of the popular pain medication celecoxib, which is sold under the brand name Celebrex. In the panel’s judgment, the medication, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), is no likelier to carry a risk of heart attack than naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil).

The panel’s opinion was important because previously some physicians had been concerned about the safety of celecoxib. That’s because it’s similar to two other medications, Vioxx and Bextra, both of which had to be taken off the market because of cardiovascular risks.

The FDA panel based its conclusion on an earlier study of more than 24,000 patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. The patients were separated into three groups — one that took ibuprofen, one that took naproxen, and one that took celecoxib. The researchers concluded that celecoxib “at moderate doses” was not more harmful to the heart than either ibuprofen of naproxen.

The FDA panel’s vote was 15-5, which means that not all the reviewers were in agreement. One qualification could be that, although celecoxib might be no riskier to the heart than naproxen or ibuprofen, the study did not necessarily demonstrate that it is 100 percent safe.

Want to learn more about NSAIDs? Read “Taking Medicines Safely: What Should You Know?”

Joseph Gustaitis is a freelance writer and editor based in the Chicago area.

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