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How do I know when to try a different medication?

Expert:   Kenya Beard , ACNP-BC, Hunter College »

As your RA worsens, you may have to consider switching to a new medication. Watch this video to learn about making this decision.

Transcript: Your rheumatoid arthritis medications don’t work INSTANTLY…but they SHOULD work EVENTUALLY. If you feel like you’re NOT getting results, your rheumatologist will look at a few factors to decide whether you need to change your medication. First, and most obviously, are you feeling better? Methotrexate, the most commonly prescribed disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug, should start to make you feel better in about 3 to 6 weeks, with full benefits kicking in around the 3 MONTH mark. Regardless of what type of medicine you’re taking, there SHOULD be signs of relief by the 3 or 4 month mark. If your physical examination and blood tests don’t show signs of improvement within this time frame, it might be time to switch your medication, or add on a brand new one. Sometimes, your medication works like a CHARM for years, and inexplicably STOPS working. If this happens to you, head to your healthcare provider and tell them that your symptoms are back. Switching to a new drug may help. ALL DMARDs and biologics come with some side effects, and they affect every patient individually. Let your healthcare provider know what you’re experiencing. If your side effects are severe enough, it might be necessary to change your prescription. A medication change is also necessary if blood tests have revealed that your medication is harming your liver or kidney function or if your white blood cell count has fallen too low. But these are all possible side effects. NEVER try a different DMARD or biologic WITHOUT a prescription. If you feel it’s time to try something new, make a health care provider’s appointment. Watch additional videos in this series to learn more about RA treatment. More »

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