What Is Celebrex (Celecoxib)?

Celebrex is the brand name for the prescription pain reliever celecoxib, the drug’s active ingredient. Doctors prescribe Celebrex to treat pain, swelling, and stiffness of arthritis and some other conditions.

Celebrex is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, often referred to simply as an NSAID. NSAIDs block swelling, pain, and fever. Celebrex works by stopping the production of COX-2, a natural substance in the body that causes pain and inflammation. Celebrex is an NSAID and a COX-2 inhibitor.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved celecoxib in 1998 for the drug company G.D. Searle under the brand name Celebrex. In May 2014, the FDA approved the generic version of celecoxib.

The FDA has approved Celebrex to treat:

  • Osteoarthritis (the type of arthritis that results from wear and tear)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (the inflammatory type of arthritis)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis in children older than 2
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (inflammatory arthritis of the spine)
  • Short-term pain caused by injury
  • Pain associated with menstrual periods

Polyps that grow in the colon and rectum in people with a condition called familial adenomatous polyposis.

Also, a study in the May 2014 issue of the journal Human Psychopharmacology suggested that celecoxib holds promise as an add-on treatment for people with depression. The researchers noted, though, that more study needs to be done to determine its safety and effectiveness long-term.

What Are the Key Things I Need to Know About Celebrex?

There are two important warnings you should be aware of before taking Celebrex:

  1. Celebrex and other NSAIDs can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke that may occur without warning and can be fatal. This risk may increase if you take Celebrex for a long time. You also may be at higher risk if you have a history of heart disease or high blood pressure.
  2. Celebrex and other NSAIDs may cause ulcers, stomach perforations, and sudden bleeding in your stomach or intestine. You may be at higher risk for this if you’re elderly, drink a lot of alcohol, smoke, are in poor health, or take any blood-thinning medications. You also may be at higher risk if you have a history of ulcers or gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding.

Read the complete FDA warnings on Celebrex and celecoxib.

Is There Anything Special I Should Discuss With My Doctor Before Taking Celebrex?

Talk to your doctor about Celebrex warnings, especially if you have a history of heart disease, stroke, ulcers, or GI bleeding. Ask how your doctor will monitor you for these conditions and what the warning symptoms are.

Always tell your doctor if you have allergies to any medications. You may not be able to take Celebrex if you have had allergic reactions to other NSAIDs or drugs called sulfonamides. You also may not be able to take Celebrex if you’ve ever had hives or asthma after taking aspirin or another NSAID. You should not take Celebrex in the days before or after some types of heart surgery, including coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

If you’re a woman, let your doctor know if you are or may be pregnant, or if you’re breastfeeding.

Before prescribing Celebrex, your doctor will also want to know if other conditions or situations apply to you, such as:

  • Frequent use of alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Asthma
  • Nasal polyps
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Swelling of the face or body
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Anemia

Celebrex Side Effects

What Are the Most Common and Serious Side Effects of Celebrex?

If you have any side effects from Celebrex, let your doctor know. The most common side effects are indigestion and headache. Other side effects may include:

  • Stomach ache
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Gas
  • Swelling of feet or hands
  • Body aches
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Upper airway congestion or infection
  • Rash

Serious side effects can occur. If you have any of these side effects, stop taking Celebrex right away. Call your doctor, get emergency help, or call 911.

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Slurred speech
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting blood or something that looks like coffee grounds
  • Bloody diarrhea or tarry stools
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Severe skin rash or blistering of skin
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, or body
  • Difficulty swallowing or talking
  • Blood-tinged urine, dark urine, or trouble passing urine
  • Fever
  • Extreme tiredness or lack of energy
  • Yellowing of skin or eyes

It’s not safe to take Celebrex during pregnancy. There is some evidence in animals that it may cause heart defects when used late in pregnancy. Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or may become pregnant before taking Celebrex. If you become pregnant while taking Celebrex, tell your doctor right away. Celebrex is also not a safe drug to take while breastfeeding.

Children with juvenile arthritis may take Celebrex if they’re older than 2. People older than 65 may have an increased risk for GI bleeding and kidney failure.

Celebrex Interactions

Do Other Drugs Affect the Way Celebrex Works?

Some drugs may affect the way Celebrex works, and Celebrex may affect other drugs you are taking. It’s very important to let your doctor know about all drugs you are taking, including any over-the-counter drugs and any herbs or supplements.

Drugs known to interact with Celebrex include:

  • Blood pressure medications called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, like benazepril (Lotensin), captopril (Capoten), and enalapril (Vasotec), as well as angiotensin II receptor antagonists such as candesartan (Atacand), eprosartan (Teveten), and irbesartan (Avapro)
  • Aspirin
  • Drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions, including methotrexate (Trexall, Rheumatrex)
  • The anti-fungal drug fluconazole (Diflucan)
  • The bipolar drug lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid)
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Other NSAIDs, including over-the-counter NSAIDs (Motrin, Advil) and other pain relievers like naproxen (Aleve)
  • Blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin)

Should I Avoid Any Food, Drink, or Activity While Taking Celebrex?

You don’t need to change your diet or activities while taking Celebrex, but don’t drink alcohol heavily while you’re taking the drug.

Celebrex Dosage

What Is a Typical Dose of Celebrex?

Celebrex comes in capsules of 50, 100, 200, and 400 milligrams (mg), and your doctor will try to find the lowest dose of Celebrex that works for you.

You’ll take Celebrex once or twice a day, with or without food. If you’re taking large doses, though, your doctor may ask you to take your dose with some food. Take your medication at the same time every day. For children or adults who have trouble swallowing capsules, it’s okay to open the capsules and sprinkle the medication on a teaspoon of applesauce.

Typical dose schedules for Celebrex are:

  • 200 mg a day for an adult with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • 200 to 400 mg a day for an adult with ankylosing spondylitis
  • 200 mg twice a day for pain from injury or menstruation
  • 400 mg twice a day, taken with food, for an adult with familial polyposis

Children with rheumatoid arthritis take Celebrex twice a day, and doctors base the dose on the child’s weight. People with liver disease may need to take a reduced dose.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Celebrex and Overdose?

An overdose of Celebrex can cause tiredness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, GI bleeding, and abdominal pain. In rare cases, a large overdose can cause kidney failure, high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and even a coma. If you think you have taken an overdose or if someone else may have overdosed on Celebrex, call a poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 or call 911.

What Happens If I Miss a Dose of Celebrex or Don’t Take It as Prescribed?

Take Celebrex exactly as directed by your doctor. Don’t take more or less. If you miss a dose of Celebrex, take it as soon as you remember. If it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dose schedule. Don’t double your dose to make up for the missed one.