Rheumatoid Arthritis Medications
There are 5 main types of medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These are listed below. Specific drugs within each type are shown in Table 1 on RA medications.
Analgesics. Analgesics relieve pain. They do not reduce inflammation or joint damage.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs reduce pain and inflammation. They do not slow progression of RA.
Corticosteroids. Steroids are most commonly used to reduce inflammation and to help with joint pain and swelling. Some steroids are used to treat severe flares. They also reduce swelling, redness, itching, and allergic reactions. Some steroids are pills. Others are shots. Some steroid shots may be given directly into a joint to relieve severe pain.
Nonbiologic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Nonbiologic DMARDs reduce inflammation and symptoms as well as RA progression and joint damage. Most nonbiologic DMARDs are taken as pills or liquids that are swallowed. A few, including methotrexate, are sometimes given as a shot.
Biologics. Biologics are the most recent advances in treatment for moderate to severe RA. Biologics are also DMARDs. Thus, they slow the progression of RA. Biologics are designed to reduce inflammation in RA by interfering with steps in the inflammation process. They block specific parts of the immune system that play a role in inflammation. Biologics are taken by injection under the skin (shot) or by infusion into a vein (IV).
Learn more about biologics for RA
How RA medications are used
Because each person with RA is different, not everyone will take the same medications. Which medications are used depends on how severe or active RA is, how fast RA is progressing, and how a person has responded to other RA drugs in the past.
Experts on RA recommend that people start treatment with DMARDs when RA is diagnosed. DMARDs may help slow RA progression. In addition to DMARDs, people may also receive NSAIDs and/or low-dose steriods, which treat pain and inflammation but do not slow the disease.
In some people, RA continues to progress despite initial treatment with DMARDs. These people need more advanced treatment to get RA under control. A variety of nonbiologic and biologic DMARDs and drug combinations can be tried to improve RA control. Optimal therapy varies from person to person. You and your doctor will determine what is right for you.
Are you considering a change in RA treatment?
Are you thinking about changing your RA treatment, or has your doctor suggested a change? Perhaps your current treatment is not controlling your RA symptoms. Or, RA is making it difficult for you to do things you need or want to do.
If you have moderate or severe RA and are still having symptoms on DMARD therapy, it may be time to talk with your doctor about starting or switching biologic treatment. Ask your doctor if CIMZIA is right for you. CIMZIA may be used with nonbiologic DMARDs, such as methotrexate. CIMZIA may also be used alone. CIMZIA cannot be used with other biologic DMARDs used to treat RA.
Learn more about CIMZIA for treatment of moderate to severe RA
Before starting CIMZIA, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions as well as all the medicines you take. Especially, tell your doctor if you take Kineret® (anakinra), Orencia® (abatacept), Rituxan® (rituximab), or Tysabri® (natalizumab). You have a higher chance for serious infections when taking CIMZIA with these medicines. Also tell your doctor if you are taking a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker such as Remicade® (infliximab), Humira® (adalimumab), Enbrel® (etanercept), Simponi® (golimumab), or Actemra® (tocilizumab). You should not take CIMZIA while you take one of these medicines. You should also not receive a live vaccine while taking CIMZIA.
Table 1. Medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis
||auranofin (oral gold)
|gold sodium thiomalate (injectable gold)
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