Meloxicam: Uses, Side Effects, Dangers, and Precautions

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If you are already taking meloxicam or thinking about taking it, it can be helpful to know more about the medication, its side effects, potential dangers associated with it, and what concerns to discuss with your doctor to weigh the risks versus benefits of it for you.

In this article: 

What Is Meloxicam?

Meloxicam is a prescription analgesic (pain-relieving) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Meloxicam is an option if you are looking for a non-narcotic pain-relieving drug. You may also know it by the brand names of Mobic and Vivlodex. A few other NSAIDs that are available over-the-counter (OTC) include:1

    • Aspirin
    • Ibuprofen (brand name Motrin)
    • Naproxen (brand name Aleve)

Meloxicam is different from these OTC drugs in terms of the chemical compounds it contains.

There are two main types of pain-relieving drugs: NSAIDs and acetaminophen (Tylenol). NSAIDs are different from acetaminophen in that in addition to alleviating pain, they also reduce inflammation.1 Meloxicam is legally available by doctor prescription only; it is much stronger than the OTC NSAIDs.2

What is Meloxicam Prescribed For?

Meloxicam is used for pain, swelling, tenderness, and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as part of chronic pain management. It is also used to treat arthritis that affects children ages 2 years and older.2 Meloxicam does not permanently cure arthritis; it will only help with pain as long as you continue to take it.3

Meloxicam has also shown to be effective in managing pain related to surgery. One study reported that meloxicam successfully managed pain for patients after dental surgery with very few and low-risk adverse effects (mostly nausea).4

Another study found that it greatly reduced post-surgery pain for patients and reduced the need for opioids to manage the pain.5 Meloxicam has also been found to effectively treat pain after orthopedic surgery without any adverse effects; this study also showed that patients used a significantly lower level of opioid pain medication post-surgery.6 Although the study suggests that meloxicam can lower the level of opioid pain medication needed, it’s still important to understand the risks of taking prescription opioids.

Meloxicam Side Effects

You may experience some common meloxicam side effects that typically do not need medical attention. They may go away as your body gets used to the medication. These common side effects include:3

  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion

Some less frequent side effects of Meloxicam include:3

  • Anxiety
  • Increased appetite
  • Unusual or unpleasant after taste
  • Bloating
  • Burning in chest or stomach
  • Dry, itchy eyes
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Continual ringing or buzzing in the ears
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach gas
  • Agitation
  • Feeling sad
  • Hair loss
  • Hot flushes
  • Loss of interest/pleasure
  • Pain or burning in the throat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Redness, pain, or swelling of the eye
  • Sleepiness
  • Thirst
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping

Inform your doctor if you experience any of these side effects and only take meloxicam as prescribed.

Get emergency medical help right away if you experience these less frequent side effects:2

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness in one part or side of the body
  • Slurred speech

What Happens If You Misuse Meloxicam?

If you take a larger dose of Meloxicam than what is prescribed, it is possible to overdose on it.

The short-term effects of misusing Meloxicam could include:2

  • Lack of energy
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloody, black, or tarry stools
  • Vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If you experience any of these symptoms, get medical attention right away.

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Information regarding the addictive potential of Meloxicam is sparse and inconclusive; documented incidences of NSAID overdose and toxicity involved mostly ibuprofen and naproxen.7

Data from various sporting fields show that many athletes take NSAIDs before a sporting event to prevent pain or inflammation. However, scientific evidence for such use is lacking, and using NSAIDs preventatively could cause significant side effects.8

The long-term effects of misusing Meloxicam could include:2

  • Stomach ulcers, bleeding, or holes
  • Intestinal ulcers, bleeding, or holes
  • Risk of death

The risk for these long-term problems is higher if you:2

  • Take higher doses of meloxicam9
  • Are older in age
  • Have poor health
  • Drink large amounts of alcohol while taking meloxicam

Issues related to overdose of ibuprofen and naproxen may come to doctors’ attention more often because those medications are readily available, leading to more such examples in the research literature compared to those of meloxicam.10 That does not mean that it is impossible to misuse meloxicam or experience adverse effects from it.

In one instance, an individual was admitted to the hospital, where he was found to have acute pancreatitis or inflammation in the pancreas. After ruling out other possibilities, the doctors determined that the most likely cause of the pancreatitis was his meloxicam dose being doubled (7.5 mg to 15 mg) two weeks before he went to the hospital.11

Effects of Mixing Meloxicam With Other Drugs

Meloxicam can also interact with many various medications. Drug interaction means if you take 2 or more medications simultaneously, then the way your body processes each one can change due to the presence of the others in your system. In addition, the risk of side effects for each one can increase, and each may also not work the way it should. Meloxicam interactions can be dangerous, so your doctor needs to know all the medications you are taking.9

Given these meloxicam dangers and contraindications, it is essential to speak with your doctor thoroughly before taking it.

What Should I Discuss with My Doctor about Meloxicam?

Again, meloxicam is available only with a doctor’s prescription. To ensure that your doctor helps you to find the pain medication that is best for you, it is important to address these issues with them:3

  • What type of pain you have been experiencing
  • What has helped you to manage pain in the past
  • Any medications you are allergic to
  • If you have other allergies such as to foods, preservatives, dyes, or animals
  • Whether you are pregnant, think you may be pregnant, or are trying to get pregnant
  • Whether you are breastfeeding
  • What medications you are currently taking including OTC, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products
  • What to do if you miss a dose
  • What side effects you are likely to experience
  • Whether there is a family history of heart disease, heart attack, stroke
  • If you will be having surgery, what pain you can expect and for how long, and what medication may work best for you
  • Whether or not you smoke and drink alcohol, and how much
  • If you have other medical problems or have had them in the past, particularly:
    • Anemia
    • Asthma
    • Bleeding problems
    • Heart problems
    • Dehydration or fluid retention
    • Heart attack or history of high blood potassium or high blood pressure
    • Liver disease
    • Stomach ulcers or bleeding
    • Stroke
    • Kidney disease
    • High cholesterol
    • Diabetes
  • Whether or not you use any illegal substances, which ones, and how often
  • If you have a history of a SUD (substance use disorder)

You might be feeling nervous or hesitant to share these last couple of points with the doctor, which is understandable. Note that the information you share with a medical professional is confidential. Moreover, only if the doctor has this information can they make the safest and most effective recommendation for you.

If you are concerned about your misuse of OTC or prescription medication, or that of a loved one, call 800-407-7195(Who Answers?) for 24/7 help.

Resources

  1. Pain Relievers: Understanding Your Options. (2004). American Family Physician, 69(5), 1199-1200. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0301/p1199.html
  2. MedlinePlus. (2021, Mar 15). Meloxicam. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601242.html
  3. Mayo Clinic. Drugs and Supplements: Meloxicam (Oral Route). (2021, Feb 1). https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/meloxicam-oral-route/description/drg-20066928
  4. Christensen, S.E., Cooper, S.A., Mack, R.J., McCallum, S.W., Du, W., & Freyer, A. (2018). A randomized double-blind controlled trial of intravenous meloxicam in the treatment of pain following dental impaction surgery. The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 58(5), 593-605.
  5. Bekker, A., Kloepping, C., & Collingwood, S. (2018). Meloxicam in the management of post-operative pain: Narrative review. Journal of Anesthesiology Clinical Pharmacology, 34(4), 450-457.
  6. Sharpe, K.P., Berkowitz, R., Tyndall, W.A., Boyer, D., McCallum, S.W., Mack, R.J., & Du, W. (2020). Safety, tolerability, and effect on opioid use of meloxicam IV following orthopedic surgery. Journal of Pain Research, 13, 221-229.
  7. Hunter, L.J., Wood, D.M., & Dargan, P.I. (2011). The patterns of toxicity and management of acute nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSID) overdose. Open Access Emergency Medicine, 3, 39-48.
  8. Warden, S.J. (2015). Prophylactic use of NSAIDs by athletes: A risk/benefit assessment. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 38(1). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.3810/psm.2010.04.1770?needAccess=true
  9. American Academy of Family Physicians. (2020, May 15). Prescription Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medicines. Familydoctor. https://familydoctor.org/prescription-nonsteroidal-anti-inflammatory-medicines/
  10. Williams, R.A. (2018). What patients don’t know about NSAIDs may lead to misuse. Pharmacy Today, 24(5).
  11. Landa, E., Ganim, I., Vigandt, E., Talhah, S., & Zhu, Y. (2021). Meloxicam-induced pancreatitis. Cureus, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.12976

the Take-Away

If you are already taking meloxicam or thinking about taking it, it can be helpful to know more about the medication, its side effects, potential dangers associated with it, and what concerns to discuss with your doctor to weigh the risks versus benefits of it for you.