Vioxx Cousin, Celebrex, Also Found to Cause Heart Attacks

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September 16, 2006 | 22,550 views

New research shows that Pfizer-made Celebrex, the only COX-2 painkiller still on the market, may pose heart risks, just like its more notorious cousin Vioxx.

Celebrex has been touted not only as a pain reliever but also as a method to prevent colorectal polyps, which can lead to cancer.

And a pair of Pfizer-funded studies, which together included almost 3,600 patients, did in fact find that Celebrex reduced the risk of recurrent polyps. But an analysis of the two studies in the journal Circulation demonstrated that Celebrex also doubles the risk of serious cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and death.

Celebrex elevated blood pressure in patients who took it twice a day, but not in those who took it only once a day, which suggests that the dose may affect safety. But an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, which published the Pfizer studies, still deemed Celebrex too risky to use for polyp prevention.

Many doctors stopped prescribing Celebrex to patients upon learning of the potential heart risks. Because of the potential side effects, the FDA has placed a "black box warning" on Celebrex.

Celebrex is the only COX-2 painkiller still on the market because the two others, Vioxx and Bextra, were pulled due to the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Turns out that Celebrex is no better.

Big surprise! Hardly.

If Celebrex doubles your risk of serious cardiovascular problems, this makes it way too risky to be used for polyp prevention, and, in my opinion, too risky to be used at all.

Don't expect the FDA's much-touted black-box warnings to be particularly effective. If you've heard about them, you might have wondered:

  • Will the average consumer truly notice these warnings?
  • Even if they do notice, do their physicians, the government and the media supply them with enough information to realize the full extent of the danger they are exposing themselves to if they take them?
  • If these drugs relieve their symptoms, will they still want to avoid them, even with the knowledge that their contents could be harmful?

Unfortunately, the answer to all three questions is: It's not likely.

That leaves only one logical option for the informed consumer: Find a safer, non-toxic alternative that addresses the cause of the problem. Make the black-box warnings irrelevant by changing your lifestyle so you won't ever have symptoms that drugs would be needed for.

Unfortunately, Celebrex is making a comeback, with sales expected to exceed $2 billion this year, and its maker, Pfizer, resuming consumer advertising for the drug. If you're taking Celebrex for arthritis, I strongly urge you to read my article about the seven ways to protect your heart using anti-inflammatory alternatives for some tips to relieve chronic pain and inflammation.

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