NSAIDS, corticosteroids and immuno suppressants are often prescribed to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA). To know more about other drugs to treat this type of arthritis, read on…
Unlike other types of arthritis that are usually diagnosed after the age of 60, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can also affect the youngsters. This is because, RA is not caused due to wear and tear of the joints but is the result of immune system invading the joint tissues. Medications prescribed are formulated to suppress the immune system. This works to alleviate joint pain and inflammation.
Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)
DMARDs try to stop the immune system from attacking the joint tissues. Thus, these medications target the underlying cause and delay the progression of the disease. The rate at which RA advances is reduced with the intake of DMARDs. They are mentioned below:
- Methotrexate (Rheumatrex)
- Minocycline (Dynacin)
- Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)
- Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
- Leflunomide (Arava)
- Abatacept (Orencia)
- Anakinra (Kineret)
- Rituximab (Rituxan)
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Use of NSAIDs is often recommended as they not only alleviate the discomfort but also reduce the inflammation. They are given below:
- Ibuprofen (Motrin)
- Naproxen (Anaprox)
- Tolmetin (Tolectin)
- Indomethacin (Indocin)
- Diclofenac (Arthrotec)
- Nabumetone (Relafen)
Corticosteroid medicines also help to control the hyperactive immune system. The medications decrease the production of inflammatory chemicals to relieve the pain. This not only reduces swelling but also slows down the process of joint damage. Following are the medications:
Besides DMARDs, the doctor may prescribe immunosuppressants, medications that order the immune system to ‘behave’ properly. Immunosuppressants reduce the strength and efficacy of the immune system, which helps to improve RA symptoms.
- Cyclosporine (Neoral)
- Azathioprine (Imuran)
- Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
White blood cells considered to be the soldiers of the body produce a type of protein, known as TNF alpha which strengthens the immune system to combat the infections and diseases. However, this same protein harms the body when it is produced in surplus amounts. Too much production of TNF alpha makes the immune system attack its own body. In order to reduce the inflammatory effect of these proteins, TNF-alpha inhibitors given below may be prescribed.
- Adalimumab (Humira)
- Infliximab (Remicade)
- Etanercept (Enbrel)
DMARDs and immunosuppressants do help to slow the rate of joint deterioration in RA but they increase the risk of infections. This happens because these medicine depress the immune system, thus making it less effective to fight infections. Some of the serious side effects linked with intake of DMARDs are liver problems and lung infections. On the other hand, NSAIDs make a person susceptible to stomach problems such as ulcers. TNF-alpha inhibitors produce side effects that may manifest in the form of heart problems and lymphoma.
New RA Drugs
With numerous complaints being reported about the side effects associated with NSAIDs, new type of NSAIDs have been developed. This new group of drugs are far more effective than the old ones but more importantly their side effects are well tolerable. Now, studies show that in RA, enzymes COX -1 and COX -2 become hyperactive and produce certain chemicals in excess, which is responsible for joint inflammation. However, if the activity of both COX -1 and COX -2 enzyme is blocked, it can lead to the development of stomach ulcers. However, the new class of NSAIDs, only interfere with COX -2 enzyme function, which helps to reduce the severity of side effects. Following are the new RA drugs that only restrict COX -2 enzyme activity:
- Celebrex (Celecoxib)
- Bextra (Valdecoxib)
- Vioxx (Rofecoxib)
RA Medicines and Pregnancy
Unfortunately the aforementioned medicines and pregnancy do not go well together. The developing baby’s health is a cause for great concern, considering the adverse side effects of RA medicines. So, it is advised that RA drugs should be stopped completely several months before deciding to get pregnant.
Keep in mind, these medicines do not cure RA. They help to prevent the condition from reaching the advanced stage. Apart from taking RA drugs, lifestyle modifications like following a healthy diet and an exercise routine such as walking and swimming is important to prevent it from worsening. These light exercises improve the flexibility and strength of the joints, thus helping to cope up with the condition in a better way.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.