Cochrane for Clinicians

Putting Evidence into Practice

Effectiveness and Safety of Celecoxib for the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis


Am Fam Physician. 2018 May 1;97(9):573.

Clinical Question

Is celecoxib (Celebrex) effective and safe for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Evidence-Based Answer

Compared with placebo, celecoxib improves pain (number needed to treat [NNT] = 4) and clinical symptoms (NNT = 7), but it has no effect on physical function in patients with RA.1 (Strength of Recommendation [SOR] = A, based on moderate-quality evidence.) Compared with traditional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), celecoxib is no better at improving pain or physical function in patients with RA. Celecoxib causes fewer gastroduodenal ulcers (at least 3 mm in size) than traditional NSAIDs (number needed to harm [NNH] with traditional NSAIDs as opposed to celecoxib = 9).1 (SOR = A, based on moderate-quality evidence.)

Practice Pointers

RA is a common type of inflammatory arthritis. Although disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are first-line therapy to minimize pain and swelling, NSAIDs are commonly used for arthritis analgesia. The authors of this review sought to assess whether celecoxib is an effective and safe agent for treating symptoms of RA.1

This review included eight double-blind, randomized, parallel-group trials with 3,988 participants who had been diagnosed with RA for an average of nine years.1 Most patients (73%) were women. Participants in the intervention arms received celecoxib in a dosage of 200 or 400 mg per day. Outcomes were based on American College of Rheumatology 20% improvement criteria (ACR20), as well as self-reported pain and physical function.

Compared with placebo, celecoxib improved clinical symptoms (15% improvement on ACR20; 95% confidence interval [CI], 7% to 25%; NNT = 7 [95% CI, 5 to 13]). Celecoxib also improved self-reported pain (i.e., 11-point reduction on a 100-point visual analog scale over 12 weeks; 95% CI, 8 to 14; NNT = 4 [95% CI, 3 to 6]). Despite these findings, celecoxib did not improve joint function as defined by the Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index scale, which assesses

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.

The practice recommendations in this activity are available at

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.


1. Fidahic M, Jelicic Kadic A, Radic M, Puljak L. Celecoxib for rheumatoid arthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;(6):CD012095.

2. Singh JA, Saag KG, Bridges SL Jr, et al. 2015 American College of Rheumatology guideline for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2016;68(1):1–25.

These are summaries of reviews from the Cochrane Library.

This series is coordinated by Corey D. Fogleman, MD, Assistant Medical Editor.

A collection of Cochrane for Clinicians published in AFP is available at



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