The arthritis drug that makes your heart old and tired

It’s truly amazing how having one disease or health condition can lead to a seemingly unrelated one.

In many cases, the link is chronic inflammation, the not-so-secret cause behind hypertension, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and urinary tract infections, to name just a few health conditions that, on the surface, have little else in common.

At other times, though, the “missing link” is a medication given for one condition that triggers the symptoms of another condition. When that’s the case, you’re caught between a rock and a hard place, as they say.

And worse yet, some drugs have what’s known as a black box warning, named after the large black outlined box in which the warning must appear on the medication’s label.

As you might guess, black box warnings are reserved for drugs with the most dangerous possible side effects.

A December 2018 study has uncovered yet another reason for an already risky drug to stay on that “black box” list indefinitely…

Celebrex: a dangerous NSAID

Celebrex is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for the pain and inflammation of arthritis. It belongs to a class of drugs called non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs.

As early as 2005, the FDA knew that taking NSAIDs significantly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. It took them until 2015 to issue a strong warning to consumers.

Not surprising, when you remember the unholy alliance between the FDA and major pharmaceutical companies.

A full decade ago, Consumer Reports posed the question: Why are about 11 million Celebrex prescriptions filed each year, even though questions of its link to heart attack have never been resolved?

The answer was simple: Big Pharma at work. In 2008, Pfizer spent $58.5 million advertising Celebrex. One online ad showed a man walking a dog and riding a bike, suggesting, of course, that his heart was strong enough for these activities, even while taking the drug.

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Not the result they expected

Researchers at Vanderbilt University thought they might have found a way that Celebrex could actually save lives.

Looking at past studies, they saw that the drug seemed to hold promise as a treatment for aortic stenosis, a heart valve condition with no known treatment other than surgery.

In aortic stenosis, there is a stiffening of the valve that connects the aorta (the body’s main artery) with the left ventricle of the heart. The result is reduced blood flow throughout the body.

Unless it is due to a birth defect, aortic stenosis develops from calcium buildup as a result of the aging process.

Without meaning to, the Vanderbilt team uncovered another reason to avoid Celebrex…

When they tested its effect on valve cells, they found that it actually appeared to increase calcium buildup and tissue stiffening.

Surprised by their findings, they went back and analyzed 8,600 long-term electronic medical records for links between a diagnosis of heart valve disease and the use of Celebrex, as well as ibuprofen and naproxen, both NSAIDs.

The analysis showed that taking Celebrex was tied to 20 percent increased odds of developing aortic stenosis. No links were found between the heart condition and ibuprofen or naproxen.

Safer ways to deal with arthritis pain

Fortunately, there are safer ways to control the pain and inflammation of arthritis.

For starters…

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  1. Study ties arthritis pain reliever to heart valve disease — Medical News Today
  2. Celecoxib Is Associated With Dystrophic Calcification and Aortic Valve StenosisJACC: Basic to Translational Science
  3. Should you still take Celebrex?Consumer Reports
Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.