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New Weapons Against Inflammation & Arthritis

Neil E. Levin

Why would we need something new in our arsenal against inflammation and arthritis? After all, people use aspirin and other Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) every day, including ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

Are the new class of drugs called COX-2 Inhibitors safe and effective?

Can certain dietary supplements be useful in place of these drugs? What is the comparable effectiveness and safety of NSAIDs, COX-2 Inhibitor drugs and dietary supplements?


There are about 16,000 deaths a year from NSAIDs, and 100,000 people hospitalized with serious complications. NSAIDs are blamed for over half of all liver failures in this country. These serious side effects have caused a demand for COX-2 Inhibitor drugs.

Gideon Bosker, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale University School of Medicine, reports on the use of NSAIDs for Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): "As every primary care practitioner knows, NSAID-associated GI toxicity has become a public health problem, especially among older patients with OA and RA. Gastrointestinal intolerance has been reported in up to 50% of patients on long-term NSAIDs."

Two recent large studies, called CLASS and VIGOR, looked at the relative safety of NSAIDs versus COX-2 drugs. NSAIDs were shown to be associated with significantly more upper G.I. tract complications, including ulcers and bleeding. Partly because of such studies, COX-2 drugs have become a major success story for pharmaceutical companies over the past few years, becoming a multi-billion dollar a year business.

Research published in the British Medical Journal found that 21% of adults with asthma are sensitive to aspirin. Aspirin may trigger a deadly reaction, as may ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen. The doctors recommend new warning labels on all products containing these drugs.


The newest darlings of the medical community, COX-2 Inhibitors help to prevent inflammation from developing by blocking the action of a certain chemical called COX-2. These drugs are noted for reducing “risk of clinically important GI events” by some 50-60% versus NSAIDs. However, most of the COX-2 Inhibitor drugs are also associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems like MI. And there are still a goodly number of GI complaints in the COX-2 groups.


There are dietary supplements that may help control the inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.

SAMe (S-Adenosylmethionine) has been studied for depression, arthritis, and a host of other ills. Pronounced “Samm-ee”, this substance was deemed effective enough to be studied in comparison to the COX-2 Inhibitor drug celecoxib (Celebrex), reportedly the least dangerous COX-2 drug in terms of cardiovascular risks.

In this study 61 patients were enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, cross-over trial over a 4-month period. The researchers found that "SAMe is equivalent in almost all measures to COX-2 inhibitors (celecoxib) in relieving pain and improving function in subjects with osteoarthritis of the knee." Their functional parameters included depression, pain, impairment of physical activity and knee mobility and strength.

The anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin and other drugs can also be achieved with concentrated blends of spices and herbs that have a wide range of benefits. These formulas also block the COX-2 enzyme, which triggers inflammation in tissues as a response to chemical signals. The herbs also serve as antioxidants and anticoagulants (blood thinners).

One formula, Zyflamend, has been shown to be helpful for inflammation and joint health, and also promotes normal cell growth (preventing abnormal growth). Zyflamend is being studied at Columbia University to show how it fights prostate cancer cells. It contains highly concentrated common spices like ginger and turmeric, which have been naturally extracted to contain the full spectrum of therapeutic chemicals in the plants.

The tremendous safety difference between dietary supplements and drugs is staggering: over a hundred thousand deaths a year from drugs versus a handful from all dietary supplements, which are far safer than any other category of food. Our risk of dying from eating dinner is far greater than from taking any dietary supplement.

Recent claims of 155 deaths "linked" to dietary supplements is nonsense, as clearly stated in the conclusions of the Rand Corporation report that was cited. Those are possible links, not proven. Almost all anecdotal reports evaporate quickly under real scrutiny by experts at the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Health Disclaimer. Content provided by NOW Foods. Copyright ©2006-2018. Published with permission. Neil E. Levin CCCN, DANLA is a certified clinical nutritionist and is a professional member of the International & American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists.