Celebrex May Be Safe for Ulcerative Colitis

Painkiller Didn't Cause Ulcerative Colitis Flare-up in Study

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on November 02, 2004
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 2, 2004 (Orlando) -- Treating pain can be a challenge in people with ulcerative colitis since many painkillers can cause a flare-up of the disease. But a new study shows that Celebrex can be safely used without concern of causing an ulcerative colitis flare-up.The new Celebrex study doesn't address long-term risk, says lead researcher William Sandborn of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Problems in the intestines, which is what interested Sandborn in his study, typically occur early rather than late in treatment, he says. So the Celebrex study only reports on the effects of 14 days of treatment with 200 mg of Celebrex twice a day.

A close cousin to Celebrex, Vioxx, was removed from the market last month after it was linked to heart disease and stroke in patients that took the medication for at least 18 months. While more research is needed to confirm that Celebrex does not also have this concern, the research thus far appears to show that Celebrex is safe in that regard.

Celebrex Safe for Ulcerative Colitis

Sandborn says his study enrolled 222 patients, all of whom had ulcerative colitis that was in remission. The patients were randomly assigned to take either Celebrex or a placebo. The study was funded by Pfizer, the maker of Celebrex. Pfizer is a WebMD sponsor.

Sandborn says Celebrex didn't trigger any ulcerative colitis flare-ups, and patients taking the drug did slightly better than patients taking the placebo. "The relapse rate in the placebo [group] was 5%, and in the [Celebrex group] it was 3%."

Ulcerative colitis patients taking Celebrex also seemed to fare better with disease severity. When researchers examined biopsy specimens, they saw "an increase in disease severity in the placebo patients," Sandborn says.

He says ulcerative colitis patients often have significant pain from arthritis or joint pain and frequently use anti-inflammatory drugs to treat the pain. However, traditional anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen and naproxen, have been linked to ulcerative colitis flare-ups. This study suggests that Celebrex is a good alternative to other anti-inflammatory drugs.

Harris Clearfield, MD, a professor at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, tells WebMD the findings "do make me somewhat more confident in prescribing [Celebrex] to ulcerative colitis patients who are in remission." He says that it will, however, be necessary to monitor patients for potential side-effects of long-term use.

Show Sources

SOURCES: American College of Gastroenterology 69th Annual Scientific Meeting, Orlando, Fla., Oct. 29-Nov. 3, 2004. William Sandborn, MD, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Harris Clearfield, MD, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia.
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