Lorna Vanderhaeghe, BSc
Why does a dangerous drug like Celebrex continue to be prescribed for arthritis and pain conditions, while kava-an extremely safe herb-gets pulled off the shelves? Health Canada issued a warning for the popular arthritis drug Celebrex in May 2002 after hundreds of reports of serious adverse reactions, including more than 70 case.
Why does a dangerous drug like Celebrex continue to be prescribed for arthritis and pain conditions, while kava an extremely safe herb gets pulled off the shelves?
Health Canada issued a warning for the popular arthritis drug Celebrex in May 2002 after hundreds of reports of serious adverse reactions, including more than 70 cases of stomach bleeding and 10 deaths. Approved in 1999, Celebrex has been prescribed as a safe pain medication and anti-inflammatory that does not cause stomach bleeding.
Common over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen and naproxen have been linked to stomach ulcers in those who take the pain medication regularly, with more than 120,000 people per year hospitalized for side-effects. More than 20 percent of those taking NSAIDS will get a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding or, more seriously, kidney and liver damage. Celebrex was supposed to offer all the benefits of standard anti-inflammatory drugs without the dangers. Not so.
More than Stomach Ulcers
Research at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center found Celebrex may also increase risk of heart attack and/or stroke.
Also, Celebrex is a sulpha drug, like some antibiotics and oral anti-diabetic drugs, and those with sulpha allergies must avoid it. Sulpha allergies affect five per cent of the population. Sadly, many people prescribed Celebrex are never told of the drug's dangerous side-effects.
Conversely, when an herb or nutritional supplement is found to have a problem, it is pulled from the shelves, deemed dangerous, printed in newspapers and discussed on every radio and television talk show in the country. Take kava, for example.
In August 2002, Health Canada issued a stop-sale order for all products containing kava. Health Canada and several regulatory agencies had received reports associating use of kava with serious liver dysfunction. Let's put that into perspective. There have been four cases of liver toxicity associated with kava-containing products reported in Canada none resulting in death. There have been three deaths worldwide, and based on data collected by Health Canada, those at risk for liver dysfunction linked to kava have pre-existing liver problems related to age and current drug or alcohol abuse.
Double Death Standard
In contrast to kava, Celebrex has caused 10 deaths in less than three years and is still prescribed to unsuspecting people. In my public lectures and radio and television interviews, I am surprised how many people taking Celebrex have no idea about its serious side-effects. With the Health Canada warning and the known side-effects, you would think physicians would be phoning patients who have been prescribed Celebrex explaining the risks and offering alternatives. Heart attack, stroke and stomach ulcers and bleeding are not worth taking this drug. There are so many wonderful anti-inflammatory herbs and nutrients scientifically validated to reduce symptoms and treat the cause of arthritic pain and suffering. If you know someone taking Celebrex, please advise her of Health Canada's warning.
Common over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have been linked to stomach ulcers in those who take the pain medication regularly, with more than 120,000 people per year hospitalized for side-effects.