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Celebrex: A New Choice for Arthritis Pain Relief

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Celebrex: A New Choice for Arthritis Pain Relief

February 22, 2000

By Janelle Mallett, Knee1 Staff

After receiving FDA approval in December 1998, Serle Corporation’s Celebrex is becoming the top choice for prescription arthritis pain relief, defeating other Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) including naproxen and ibuprofen. On February 22nd, one year after its initial launch, Celebrex has become the most successful pharmaceutical endeavor in American history.

In acquiring 19 million prescriptions in its first year, Celebrex has surpassed even Viagra and Lipitor, two major US successes. The drug has also managed a high percentage of patients continuing with their medication.

A major part of the successful Celebrex sales can be attributed to effective marketing strategies. Rival drug companies, Searle and Pfizer co-promoted Celebrex in an attempt to benefit mutually from increased sales.

Celebrex has been tested in more than 50 clinics with over 13,000 patients between the ages of 18 and 93. Studies show the drug is as effective as the NSAIDs naproxen and diclofenac in treating the diseases osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, respectively. The advantage is that Celebrex may be considered safer because of its reduced side effects.

Like naproxen and ibuprofen, Celebrex targets the COX-2 enzyme that synthesizes prostaglandin, the chemical controlling arthritis pain, fever, tenderness and inflammation. These drugs inhibit the COX-2 enzyme, decreasing prostaglandin production and reducing pain and swelling.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is caused by overuse of joints and degeneration of cartilage from normal activities and also from injuries. OA is common among the elderly and affects a significant portion of adults over 35 years. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) not only affects joints but can also lead to loss of appetite and other problems. Like Osteoarthritis, RA causes pain in joint tissue from cartilage wearing away. The symptoms range from mild pain, to serious joint deformities.

While the other NSAIDs also target the COX-1 enzyme that irritates the stomach as a side effect, Celebrex does not. In various studies Celebrex patients show fewer side effects associated with the stomach lining, including ulcers and stomach bleeding.

Celebrex, however, does have other side effects and still affects the stomach lining, even if to a lesser extent. Use of the COX-2 inhibitor can cause indigestion, diarrhea and abdominal pain. In some rare instances, stomach bleeding may occur. Another advantage Celebrex has over other NSAIDs is that it will not restrict blood clotting.

Merck and Co. has also won FDA approval on a COX-2 inhibitor arthritis pain killer, under the brand name Vioxx. The market is growing fast and furiously with companies promoting that COX-2 inhibitors are safer than other NSAID pain-killers.

Patients should be aware, however, that studies on the long-term effects of Celebrex are not yet available.

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