Celebrex (Celecoxib) – Oral

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What Is Celebrex?

Celebrex (celecoxib) is used to treat pain and inflammation from many different causes, including arthritis. It is a type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). NSAIDs work differently from steroids (such as prednisone), another type of drug used to treat pain.

Celebrex is a type of NSAID called a COX-2 inhibitor. It works differently than other NSAIDs, blocking the COX-2 enzyme, which is responsible for inflammation and pain.

Celebrex also has slightly different risks and benefits compared with some other types of NSAIDs, like ibuprofen. It is available in oral capsules by prescription only.

Drug Facts

  • Generic Name: Celecoxib
  • Brand Name(s): Celebrex, Elyxyb
  • Drug Availability: Prescription
  • Therapeutic Classification: Analgesic
  • Available Generically: Yes
  • Controlled Substance: N/A
  • Administration Route: Oral
  • Active Ingredient: Celecoxib
  • Dosage Form(s): Capsule

What Is Celebrex Used For?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Celebrex for several different medical conditions that cause arthritis:

Celebrex is also FDA-approved to treat primary dysmenorrhea, a cramping pain that comes before or during your period.

Other than the conditions listed above, it is not FDA-approved for conditions that cause chronic, long-term pain.

How to Take Celebrex

You can take Celebrex with or without food. However, taking it with food may help prevent stomach upset. Depending on the prescribed dosage, you might take it once or twice per day.

Storage

Celebrex doesn’t have any special storage requirements. It can be kept at room temperature.

Off-Label Uses

When medically appropriate, healthcare providers can prescribe Celebrex to treat several other conditions not specified by the FDA. This is called off-label use.

Celebrex may be prescribed off-label:

  • To treat acute pain (pain that is not expected to last more than six months)
  • Along with other medications to reduce pain before or after surgery 
  • To reduce the risk of colon cancer in people with a genetic condition called familial adenomatous polyposis

How Long Does Celebrex Take to Work?

Celebrex can start to work within a few hours of taking a dose. However, some people might not notice the effects for a few days or up to two weeks after starting the medication.

What Are the Side Effects of Celebrex?

This is not a complete list of side effects, and others may occur. A medical professional can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your pharmacist or a medical professional. You may report side effects to the FDA at www.fda.gov/medwatch or 1-800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

Some of the most common side effects of Celebrex are:

  • Belly pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of the extremities
  • Dizziness
  • Stuffiness (rhinitis)
  • Mild rash

However, most people don’t notice any side effects from taking Celebrex.

Severe Side Effects

Rarely, Celebrex causes severe side effects. Some potentially serious side effects include:

  • Signs of liver problems, like yellow skin
  • Kidney problems
  • Worsening of asthma symptoms
  • Anemia, which might cause symptoms like fatigue

Celebrex can cause an allergic reaction that leads to sudden difficulty breathing (anaphylaxis). Call 911 if you have any potentially life-threatening symptoms such as that.

Taking Celebrex also may slightly increase one’s risk of heart attack or stroke.

Report Side Effects

Celebrex may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your provider may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (1-800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Celebrex Should I Take?

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The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

For oral dosage form (capsules):

For acute pain or pain during menstruation:

  • Adults—At first, 400 milligrams (mg). A second dose of 200 mg can be taken if needed on the first day. Then, 200 mg 2 times a day as needed.
  • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.

For ankylosing spondylitis or osteoarthritis:

  • Adults—200 milligrams (mg) once a day or 100 mg 2 times a day. Your doctor may increase your dose if needed.
  • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.

For rheumatoid arthritis or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Adults—100 to 200 milligrams (mg) 2 times a day.
  • Children 2 years of age and older and weighing more than 25 kilograms (kg)—Dose is based on body weight and must be determined by your doctor. The dose is usually 100 milligrams (mg) 2 times a day.
  • Children 2 years of age and older and weighing less than 25 kilograms (kg)—Dose is based on body weight and must be determined by your doctor. The dose is usually 50 milligrams (mg) 2 times a day.
  • Children younger than 2 years of age—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.

For oral dosage form (solution):

For acute migraine with or without aura:

  • Adults—120 milligrams (mg) once a day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed and tolerated.
  • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.

Modifications

If you have trouble swallowing pills, you can open the capsule and sprinkle the contents onto a small amount of applesauce or a similar food.

Other versions of celecoxib have been approved as liquids to be swallowed or applied to the skin. However, these are not the brand-name version, Celebrex.

Missed Dose

Many people take Celebrex only occasionally when they need it. However, some may take it every day.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. You might notice more pain than usual if you forget to take it. If it is close to the time of your next dose, don’t double up.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Celebrex?

People who overdose on Celebrex might experience symptoms like grogginess and drowsiness. Nausea, vomiting, and belly pain are also common symptoms. Rarely, a coma may occur in severe cases. 

You are most likely to need treatment if you have taken a large overdose—five or more times the recommended dose. However, even if you haven’t taken that much, you should call your healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center. They will let you know if you need to be seen by a healthcare professional.

What Happens If I Overdose On Celebrex?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on Celebrex (celecoxib), call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222).

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking celecoxib, call 911 immediately.

Precautions

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It is very important that your doctor check the progress of you or your child at regular visits. This will allow your doctor to see if the medicine is working properly and to decide if you should continue to take it. Blood and urine tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.

Using this medicine during the later part of pregnancy can harm your unborn baby. If you think you have become pregnant while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away.

This medicine may cause a delay in ovulation for women and may affect their ability to have children. If you plan to have children, talk with your doctor before using this medicine.

This medicine may raise your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. This is more likely in people who already have heart disease. People who use this medicine for a long time might also have a higher risk.

This medicine may cause bleeding in your stomach or bowels. These problems can happen without warning signs. This is more likely if you or your child have had a stomach ulcer in the past, if you smoke or drink alcohol regularly, are over 60 years of age, are in poor health, or using certain other medicines (eg, steroids or a blood thinner).

Liver problems may occur while you are using this medicine. Check with your doctor right away if you have stomach pain or tenderness, clay-colored stools, dark urine, decreased appetite, fever, headache, itching, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, skin rash, swelling of the feet or lower legs, unusual tiredness or weakness, or yellow eyes or skin.

Check with your doctor right away if you have bloody urine, a decrease in frequency or amount of urine, an increase in blood pressure, increased thirst, loss of appetite, lower back or side pain, nausea, swelling of the face, fingers, or lower legs, trouble breathing, unusual tiredness or weakness, vomiting, or weight gain. These could be symptoms of a serious kidney problem.

Hyperkalemia (high potassium in the blood) may occur while you are using this medicine. Check with your doctor right away if you have stomach pain, confusion, difficulty with breathing, irregular heartbeat, nausea or vomiting, nervousness, numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, or lips, or weakness or heaviness of the legs.

Using this medication in certain patients under the age of 18 for the treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may increase the risk of disseminated intravascular coagulation (bleeding problem). Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about this.

Serious skin reactions, including exfoliative dermatitis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS), and acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis (AGEP) can occur with this medicine. Check with your doctor right away if you have black, tarry stools, blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin, chest pain, chills, cough, diarrhea, fever, itching, joint or muscle pain, painful or difficult urination, red irritated eyes, red skin lesions, sore throat, sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips, swollen glands, unusual bleeding or bruising, or unusual tiredness or weakness.

Serious side effects can occur during treatment with this medicine and can occur without warning. However, possible warning signs often occur, including black, tarry stools, decreased urination, severe stomach pain, skin rash, swelling of the face, fingers, feet, or lower legs, unusual bleeding or bruising, unusual weight gain, vomiting of blood or material that looks like coffee grounds, or yellow eyes and skin. Also, signs of serious heart problems could occur such as chest pain, tightness in the chest, fast or irregular heartbeat, or unusual flushing or warmth of the skin. Check with your doctor right away if you notice any of these warning signs.

This medicine may cause a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Call your doctor right away if you have a rash, itching, trouble breathing or swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth while you are using this medicine.

Tell your doctor if you or your child have unexplained weight gain or edema (fluid retention or body swelling) with this medicine.

Before having any kind of surgery or medical tests, tell your doctor that you are taking this medicine. It may be necessary for you to stop treatment for a while, or to change to a different NSAID before your procedure.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Celebrex?


Celebrex won’t be the best choice for everyone. For example, you should not take Celebrex if you will be undergoing coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, a procedure used to treat blocked blood vessels in the heart. That’s because Celebrex might increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

You should also not take Celebrex if you:

  • Have recently had a heart attack
  • Have a sensitivity or allergy to it or have had allergic reactions to aspirin or other NSAIDs
  • Are in the last part of pregnancy (the third trimester)

Taking Celebrex or another NSAID might increase the risk of a serious condition that can damage the infant’s heart (premature closure of the fetal ductus arteriosus).

NSAIDs may decrease your chance of conceiving. If you are having difficulty getting pregnant, you might want to stop taking them.

Older people may want to discuss the risks and benefits of Celebrex with their healthcare providers. Like other NSAIDs, Celebrex increases the risk of certain problems, like bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract. Older people already have an increased risk of this problem, so they may want to consider other options.

Similarly, Celebrex might not be the best choice for people who have certain medical conditions, such as:

What Other Medications Interact with Celebrex?

Celebrex may interact with certain medications. You should not take both Celebrex and a regular-strength dose of aspirin. Smaller doses of aspirin used to prevent heart disease might be OK, but check with your healthcare provider. That’s because taking both Celebrex and aspirin might increase your risk of bleeding too much (e.g., getting a bleed in your gastrointestinal tract).

You should also be cautious if you take other drugs that affect how your blood clots. Your provider might want you to carefully watch for signs of excess bleeding, like blackened stool, if you take any of these medications with Celebrex:

  • Warfarin
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), like Cymbalta (duloxetine)

Celebrex might make other drugs less effective, so you should discuss what other medications you are taking with your provider.

These medications include:

ACE inhibitors and ARBs may also worsen kidney problems if you already have those issues. Your medical provider might need to monitor through blood tests.

Celebrex can also interact with digoxin, a drug used by some people with heart problems. Digoxin needs to be kept within a specific level in your blood. Your provider may want you to get a blood test to see if taking Celebrex has affected the amount of digoxin in your body.

This is not a comprehensive list of possible drug interactions with Celebrex. Talk to your healthcare provider about all your medications before you start Celebrex.

What Medications Are Similar?

Many other types of NSAIDs are available to treat pain and inflammation. However, Celebrex is currently the only NSAID of the COX-2 inhibitor type available in the United States.

Other commonly used over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDs include:

  • Advil (ibuprofen)
  • Aleve (naproxen)
  • Aspirin

A related drug, Tylenol (acetaminophen), is not technically an NSAID. However, it can also be used to reduce pain. Tylenol carries a different set of potential risks compared with NSAIDs. It might be a better choice if you are already at risk of having a bleed in your gastrointestinal tract.

Other types of NSAIDs are available with a prescription. These are often available in higher doses than OTC drugs. Some people may find them more effective and convenient.

Examples include:

Some of these medications are also available as topical treatments.

Celebrex may be less likely to cause belly pain and related symptoms than other NSAIDs. It might also carry somewhat less risk of bleeding issues. However, Celebrex might have a higher risk of potential heart attack and stroke than other kinds of NSAIDs.

Please note that none of these other NSAID drugs are intended to be taken along with Celebrex. A potential exception is Tylenol, which is not technically an NSAID.

Taking too many NSAIDs at once may increase your risk of side effects and even potential overdose. Keep in mind that NSAIDs are sometimes included as part of various other OTC products, like certain versions of Sudafed. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does Celebrex work?

    All NSAIDs, including Celebrex, work by blocking a group of enzymes in the body, substances that trigger specific chemical reactions. NSAIDs block the COX (cyclooxygenase) enzymes.

    These enzymes are involved in many different processes in the body, including pathways involving pain and inflammation and other activities like blood clotting. When these enzymes are blocked temporarily, you experience less pain and inflammation.

    Specifically, Celebrex blocks a type of COX enzyme called COX-2. That’s why you’ll sometimes hear it referred to as a “COX-2 inhibitor.”

  • What is the difference between Celebrex and other NSAIDs?

    Most NSAIDs block both an enzyme called COX-1 and COX-2. Celebrex primarily blocks the COX-2 enzyme. Because of this, Celebrex has slightly different benefits and risks than other NSAIDs.

    Importantly, you might have less risk of having gastrointestinal problems if you take Celebrex. You might also have slightly less risk of bleeding problems.

  • Is Celebrex safe to use?

    Like all drugs, Celebrex comes with potential risks and benefits. It won’t be the right choice for everyone.

    Celebrex appears to have fewer side effects than other NSAIDs, like reduced stomach problems. However, some evidence shows that Celebrex and other COX-2 inhibitors might carry other risks, particularly increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In recent years, it has become less clear whether Celebrex does indeed pose more risk of heart attack and stroke compared with other NSAIDs.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Celebrex?

Celebrex is a pain reliever that may be able to help you live your life more fully. Like any drug, it carries some risks. But for some, the pain relief it offers will outweigh those risks. Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of Celebrex in your situation.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for education purposes only and not intended as a replacement for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare professional. Consult your doctor before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

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