Video Q & A:



How long does it take for DMARDs to begin working?

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

DMARDs aren't all the same-- they work differently, which means they work at different paces. Find your drug in this video to learn when it'll start helping you.

Transcript: DMARDs—or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs—slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. They save patients from joint damage and A LOT of pain. But unfortunately, relief ISN’T instantaneous. Different DMARDs, have different waiting periods. The most commonly prescribed DMARD, methotrexate, works in as little as 3 to 6 weeks. Their full benefits likely WON’T appear for about 3 MONTHS, though. Methotrexate is often paired with one or two of the following DMARDs. Hydroxychloroquine starts to kick in after 1 to 2 months, but full relief may take up to 6 months. Sulfasalazine may take LONGER to work—if you’re on it, you may have to wait between 1 and 3 months to feel ANY symptom relief. LEFLUNOMIDE, on the other hand, starts to work in about 1 to 2 months. It’ll take up to 3 months to feel its complete effect. BIOLOGIC DMARDs are drugs made from proteins from living HUMAN cells. They target an RA patient’s immune system in a more specific way. Sometimes they’re prescribed alone, while other times, they’re prescribed alongside methotrexate. Most biologics generally work FASTER than the traditional DMARDs I spoke about a minute ago. You’ll actually start to feel better within 1 to 3 WEEKS of your first dose. Depending on the specific biologic, it may take several months for a patient to experience its complete effect. ONE more thing to note—your FIRST DMARD medication may not offer you relief. It may take some time to find the RIGHT individual drug or combination therapy FOR YOU. So don’t give up. In the interim, your doctor might recommend or prescribe painkillers or corticosteroid medications—they will relieve your pain quickly, but they won’t slow down the progressive joint damage that RA causes. If you are taking a DMARD and think you need to try a DIFFERENT medication, ask your doctor for advice. Don’t STOP or START any medication on your own. To learn more about DMARDs, watch other videos in this series. More »

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