Video Q & A:

RA Medication Basics


Does gold treat rheumatoid arthritis?

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

Who knew that metal could treat a disease? And yet gold salts used to be a significant component of rheumatoid arthritis therapy. Find out why they've fallen out of favor.

Transcript: Until the 1990s, the gold standard for rheumatoid arthritis treatment was actually GOLD. Intramuscular gold salts, such as gold sodium thiomalate and aurothioglucose, were some of the first disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or DMARDS, commonly prescribed to people with rheumatoid arthritis. Gold salts are given through injection or pill form. Researchers aren’t sure how they work, but they are believed to decrease joint pain and slow disease progression by modifying your body’s immune system response. Though gold salts have a long history of effectively easing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, they are rarely any more, in part because they can take three to six months to work. They also cause more side effects than current drug treatments. More than one-third of people taking gold-based medications experience a range of side effects -- such as rashes, kidney disease and permanent skin discoloration -- which cause them to seek other treatments. Additionally, it’s possible that gold may cause birth defects—women on gold salts should be using reliable birth control as a precaution. People taking gold salts have to be carefully monitored for all side effects. While researchers continue to seek safer gold-based treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, there are several more favorable treatment options for you today. More »

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