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As a consumer in the US free-market society, you have a choice in the products you buy and use. This is also true for medical and health products. If you have arthritis, your doctor can prescribe whatever anti-inflammatory or analgesic medication he or she chooses, but you, as the recipient of that medication, truly have the ultimate say-so in whether or not you choose to purchase it and put it in your body. And with natural supplements out there that are so easy to come by these days, and that many arthritis sufferers swear by and more and more studies are validating, we have more choices and more say-so in our own health than we ever have before.

Drug manufacturers know this, which is why they don’t just send sales reps to physicians’ offices to market directly to them; they also market directly to you, the consumer, via advertising…lots and lots of advertising. Perhaps their most aggressive drug-marketing target is patients with arthritis. Why? Arthritis is a very common disease that affects millions of people. So whether its over-the-counter drugs or prescription drugs, if you sit down to watch network TV for about an hour, you’re bound to see an ad pushing a pain-relieving drug to treat arthritis. One of the more common of these is the prescription drug Celebrex.

Today, as we continue in our National Arthritis Month series, we’re going to see what happens when the supplement chondroitin goes head to head with prescription Celebrex. Our goal today is to provide some helpful information to patients trying to decide which is the right choice for helping relieve their arthritis. First, let’s review chondroitin.

What Is Chondroitin?

Chondroitin is naturally found in connective tissues and is an important structural and hydrating component in cartilage. This makes it critical for joint lubrication and shock absorption. Since the wearing out of cartilage is what defines arthritis, chondroitin, therefore, has been shown in many high-quality studies to be very beneficial to arthritis patients.

Chondroitin is not a pharmacological drug; it is a nutritional supplement. It’s usually made from breaking down cow cartilage, and less commonly shark cartilage.  It’s also been shown to have few known side effects and to be safe to use long-term.

What Is Celebrex?

Celebrex, on the other hand, is a pharmacological drug, a prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and one that is commonly used to provide temporary relief from arthritis symptoms, such as pain and inflammation. Unless you never turn on your TV, you’ve certainly seen the ads for Celebrex.

Let me set the typical commercial scene: a beach with sugar-white sand as a middle-aged couple runs along the wave-line with their dog, an older couple showing off dance moves in a studio, a middle-aged woman playing fetch with her dog (more often than not, there seems to be a dog involved). Then, after the soothing mood it set, the announcer chimes in with the potential reality of taking the drug—the long list of possible side effects—heart attack, stroke, death, stomach bleeding and ulcers, allergic skin reactions, and so much more. You can read about a few of the side effects of NSAIDS, which includes Celebrex, more in depth at the links below:

There have been so many high-level studies revealing the dangers of these drugs that the AHA and FDA have issued warnings of their own, some of which are required on the drug labels (take a look at the back of a bottle of over-the-counter ibuprofen to see it for yourself):

Chondroitin Beats Celebrex One Study Found

One high-level randomized controlled trial study put chondroitin head to head with Celebrex for treating arthritis. Researchers looked at the structural changes and signs and symptoms of arthritis and how they responded to both the supplement and the prescription drug. Both equally relieved pain and stiffness, but chondroitin beat Celebrex in regards to the progression of arthritis, finding that chondroitin resulted in a greater reduction in cartilage loss and bone changes. Keep in mind that not all supplements are created equal, and you will need to do your research, making sure you select a high-quality chondroitin product.

It appears that not only are you getting the same symptom relief with chondroitin that you get with Celebrex, you’re also getting some added benefits with the supplement: less cartilage loss, no production of defective cartilage, and no long list of dangerous side effects. So next time that Celebrex commercial comes on, take a TV break and go take your chondroitin.