3 arthritis pain drugs prove equally safe for the heart

NEW ORLEANS — A new study may reassure millions of arthritis sufferers seeking pain relief without bad side effects. It finds that Celebrex, a drug similar to ones withdrawn 12 years ago for safety reasons, is no riskier for the heart than some other painkillers that are tough on the stomach.

The government required Pfizer, Celebrex’s maker, to do this new safety study after the popular arthritis drug Vioxx was withdrawn. The study tested Celebrex against prescription-strength ibuprofen or naproxen in 24,000 people with heart disease or a high risk for it.

The drugs proved similar on heart risks and Celebrex caused fewer stomach problems.

Results were discussed Sunday at an American Heart Association conference and published by the New England Journal of Medicine.