Video Q & A:

Ask Your Doctor

Question:

Can I ever stop taking my medications?

Expert:   Linda Russell, MD, Hospital for Special Surgery »

Unfortunately, rheumatoid arthritis is incurable. Take a look at this video to find out if your symptoms will return if you stop medication.

Transcript: As a result of your medication—which likely involves at least one DMARD and one biologic—you may be feeling great! Your joint pain has decreased, and your doctor says that you’ve successfully prevented joint damage. Unfortunately, that DOESN’T mean you can come off your drugs. Remember that there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. EVEN if you’ve met the clinical requirements for remission—little to no joint pain, less than 15 minutes of morning stiffness and barely any disease activity. Your RA symptoms will probably come BACK if you stop taking your biologics and/or your DMARDs. These drugs are HOLDING BACK your overactive immune system from attacking your joint tissue—not eliminating the problem permanently. If your rheumatologist confirms that you are in remission, he WILL probably allow you to stop taking any corticosteroids or painkillers you’re on because those do NOT halt the progression of your RA—only your DMARDs and biologics do that. DMARDs and biologics DO trigger side effects that range from mild to serious. Every patient experiences them differently. If you’re experiencing ones on the “serious” end of the spectrum, I recommend you asking your doctor for a DIFFERENT medication—NOT for permission to stop taking your DMARDs altogether. If you’d like to learn more about rheumatoid arthritis treatment, take a look at other videos in this series. More »

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