Osteoarthritis Treatment Prescription Medication

NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) block the body’s production of prostaglandins, which are hormones that cause inflammation. Prostaglandins also protect the stomach lining, though, so side effects of NSAIDs include stomach or intestinal ulcers.

A newer family of NSAIDs, known as COX-2 inhibitors, has recently been developed. COX-2 inhibitors prevent the production of the prostaglandin hormone COX-2, which causes inflammation, but don’t inhibit the body’s production of COX-1, which protects the stomach. This significantly reduces the frequency of stomach problems and other side effects.

Relafen®: A Prescription NSAID

Relafen® (nabumetone) is one of the prescription NSAIDs commonly used to treat osteoarthritis. The drug provides pain relief by reducing the levels of inflammation in the joints. Relafen® can cause the sudden development of stomach ulcers, so regular check-ups with your health professional are recommended. If you have kidney or liver problems, these should be discussed with your doctor before starting Relafen®.

Contraindications (conditions under which use of the drug is inadvisable) to the use of Relafen® include asthma or allergic reactions to other NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Because the effects of Relafen® on a developing fetus have not been determined, its use is contraindicated during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, as the drug may pass through the milk to the infant. Your doctor should be made aware if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while taking Relafen®.

Possible side effects include ulcers, fluid retention and swelling. Abdominal pains, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, headaches and sensitivity to sunlight are other possible side effects. Interaction with other drugs may occur, especially lithium, diuretics and methotrexate.

The COX-2 Inhibitors

COX-2 inhibitors, such as Celebrex® (celecoxib), are as effective at reducing inflammation as older NSAIDs, but don’t have the risk of stomach ulcer formation. And many COX-2 inhibitors are safe for people taking blood thinners, because they don’t interfere with platelet function.

Like Relafen®, contraindications for the use of any COX-2 inhibitor include allergic reactions to other NSAIDs. Other contraindications include pregnancy, existing kidney or liver disease, and heart failure.

Side effects range from weight gain, fluid retention and fatigue to more serious complications such as bloody stools, vomiting and severe abdominal pain. COX-2 inhibitors can cause adverse reactions when used in combination with several other drugs, including some nonprescription drugs, so a list of all medications you use should be given to your doctor.

The Recent News on COX-2 Inhibitors

As of September 30, 2004, Merck