Celebrex (celecoxib)

What is Celebrex?

Celebrex (celecoxib) is an oral medication that can be used to help treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It can also be used to treat the symptoms of other conditions, such as osteoarthritis, as well as to help adults manage acute pain from other causes. Pfizer Inc. received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Celebrex in 1998.

How does Celebrex work?

The active mechanism in Celebrex, celecoxib, is a type of medicine called a selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitor. COX-2 inhibitors are members of a large category of drugs known as NSAIDs, which stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs are generally used to help reduce inflammation and pain.

Enzymes are biological molecules that enable different kinds of chemical reactions to occur in the body. The human body contains many different types of these enzymes, which cause various kinds of chemical reactions. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is one such enzyme; it produces a specific type of hormone-like chemical messengers called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins can cause pain and inflammation for people with RA. A similar enzyme, cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1), also produces prostaglandins that are linked to inflammation, but it has another important role of protecting the lining of the stomach and intestine. COX-2 enzymes are located in many areas of the body affected by arthritis and are produce prostaglandins that can cause inflammation, but unlike COX-1 enzymes, they are not involved in producing prostaglandins that protect the stomach.

Many common NSAIDs (such as aspirin and ibuprofen) work by blocking the body’s production of both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. While this can reduce inflammation in many parts of the body, it also prevents the production of the COX-1 enzymes that protect the lining of the stomach. This can cause stomach irritation, ulcers, and bleeding. Selective COX-2 inhibitors such as Celebrex only block the production of COX-2 enzymes. This prevents the COX-2 enzymes from producing prostaglandins and reduces inflammation, while still allowing the COX-1 enzymes to produce prostaglandins that perform their protective function in the stomach.

For people with RA, Celebrex is usually taken twice per day by mouth. Patients’ healthcare providers determine the best dosage strength to treat their specific RA symptoms.

To learn more about the effectiveness of Celebrex, click here.

Are there any risks that are linked to taking Celebrex?

Like other NSAIDs, Celebrex can cause a higher risk of very serious side effects for some people. It may cause a person to have a greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke, particularly if the person has a history of heart-related problems. This risk can increase the longer a person takes Celebrex.

Taking Celebrex can also cause a higher risk of having certain kinds of serious gastrointestinal problems related to the stomach and intestines, such as bleeding and ulcers. Older patients have a higher risk of developing these kinds of side effects.

To reduce the risk of these and other possible side effects, it is very important to take Celebrex exactly as prescribed, not more often or at a higher dosage.

For more information about the safety of Celebrex and its possible side effects, click here.

Written by: Jonathan Simmons | Last reviewed: September 2013.
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