Meloxicam is a type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) available by prescription only. It’s primarily used to relieve symptoms of chronic arthritis.

It’s generally safe when taken as prescribed but, as with all medications, it has the potential for some side effects.

Liver damage from meloxicam is very rare, but a temporary increase in certain liver enzymes is possible while taking the medication. These increases are usually small and often revert back to normal levels even without changing your medication.

The rate of liver injury for all types of NSAIDs is estimated at between 1 to 9 people per 100,000.

Read on to learn more about how meloxicam may affect your liver and the symptoms it may cause.

Meloxicam is an NSAID used to treat arthritis pain. It blocks the production of enzymes that create inflammation. As a result, meloxicam may help reduce:

In the United States, oral meloxicam is sold under the following names:

  • meloxicam (generic name)
  • Mobic
  • Vivlodex

NSAIDs are among the most common drugs taken in the United States. Every year, more than 70 million prescriptions are filled, and more than 30 billion over-the-counter tablets are sold.

Meloxicam is considered stronger than over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen, but it takes longer to act. It can take several days for meloxicam to reach maximum effect, making it better suited to treating chronic pain and less suited for sudden pain or injuries.

Liver damage is a potential side effect of meloxicam, but it’s very rare, and recovery is usually rapid once the medication is stopped.

However, it’s possible to see a temporary increase in liver enzymes such as aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) when you’re taking meloxicam. High levels of these enzymes can suggest a problem with your liver.

Occasionally, your doctor may monitor your liver while you’re taking meloxicam, but less than 1% of people taking meloxicam see more than a three-fold increase in these enzymes, which is usually considered a moderate increase.

Up to 15% of people taking meloxicam may have elevations of ALT or AST enzymes that are 3 times higher than normal levels. Increases less than 3 times normal levels are often considered minor and usually resolve even while continuing to take the medication.

A moderate increase above 3 times normal has been reported in about 1% of people in clinical trials. Your doctor may recommend that you stop taking meloxicam or they may lower your dose if this happens.

Severe liver damage from meloxicam is extremely rare, but liver injury resulting in death has been reported due to:

A single case of autoimmune hepatitis suspected to be triggered by meloxicam has been reported in the medical literature. Autoimmune hepatitis is when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your liver.

Warning signs of liver damage can include:

In a 2016 study that examined 30 cases of NSAID-induced liver injury, 3 cases were attributed to meloxicam. Liver injury in the people taking meloxicam developed within 13 to 24 days after starting treatment.

All three people developed jaundice, one developed a fever, and one developed an itchy rash.

To reduce the risk of serious side effects, it’s important to only take meloxicam as prescribed.

A typical starting dose for osteoarthritis is 5 milligrams (mg) once daily. For rheumatoid arthritis it’s 7.6 mg once daily, which may be increased to 15 mg by your doctor. Dosages higher than this are associated with an increased risk of gastrointestinal problems.

Meloxicam isn’t usually recommended for people with heart failure or severe kidney or liver disease. Your doctor can help you know if you’re at an increased risk of complications.

Meloxicam is generally well tolerated but comes with a risk of some side effects. The most common side effects reported in clinical trials include:

  • diarrhea
  • increased risk of upper respiratory tract infection
  • upset stomach
  • flu-like symptoms

Meloxicam can also interact with other medications. It’s important to tell your doctor about all medications you’re currently taking before starting meloxicam. Some known drug interactions include:

Clinical trials lasting up to three years have found that people taking NSAIDs are at an increased risk of serious cardiovascular conditions such as stroke and heart attack. Your doctor may not prescribe meloxicam if you’ve recently had one of these complications.

NSAIDs can also cause an increased risk of serious gastrointestinal symptoms such as:

  • bleeding
  • ulcers
  • tears in the small intestines or stomach

These complications are most common in people over 65 and in people with a history of peptic ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding.

Meloxicam is an NSAID that’s used to treat arthritis. It’s generally well-tolerated but comes with a risk of side effects. The most common side effects are usually mild, but there’s a very small risk of liver damage.

Your doctor may recommend blood tests to monitor your liver enzyme levels while you’re taking meloxicam. A big increase in liver enzyme levels may be a warning sign of liver damage.

In most cases, elevated enzyme levels resolve on their own or once you stop taking the medication.