Researchers found more complications, such as bleeding, for the pain relievers ibuprofen and naproxen

Some people taking the pain reliever Celebrex may not have a greater risk for heart problems than those taking other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), a new study says.

Celebrex (celecoxib) is a COX-2 inhibitor. That’s the same class of drugs as Vioxx and Bextra, which were pulled from the market in 2004 and 2005, respectively, because they were linked to heart problems. Celebrex didn’t seem to share the same issues, so has remained available.

And the new trial’s “primary message is that celecoxib is not riskier for the heart than other NSAIDs,” said study director Dr. Steven Nissen in a Cleveland Clinic news release. Nissen is chair of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine.

Nissen’s prior research was instrumental in uncovering the cardiovascular risks associated with COX-2 inhibitors.

The new study seems to reaffirm Celebrex’s safety profile. However, several heart disease specialists aren’t convinced that this study’s findings are sufficient to say that Celebrex is safe for people with a high risk of heart problems.

This study included more than 24,000 osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis patients worldwide. Their average age was 64. They took one of three drugs daily for pain relief: Celebrex, Naprosyn (naproxen) or Motrin (ibuprofen). The patients all had pre-existing heart disease or an increased risk for developing heart disease.

Through 10 years of follow-up, heart attack, stroke or death occurred in 2.3 percent of patients taking Celebrex, 2.5 percent of patients taking Naprosyn, and 2.7 percent of patients taking Motrin, the study showed.

The research found that ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding was 54 percent higher in the Motrin group and 41 percent higher in the Naprosyn group than in the Celebrex group.

Patients taking Motrin had a 64 percent higher risk of worsening kidney function than those taking Celebrex. Death from any cause was about 25 percent higher in the Naprosyn group than in the Celebrex group, but this difference was very slight, according to the researchers.

The study was funded by Celebrex maker Pfizer Inc. Four of the study co-authors work at the drug company. Pfizer took part in the study design, development of protocol and assisted with data collection and maintained the trial database.

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