Video Q & A:

RA Medication Basics


What types of drugs are used to treat RA?

Expert:   Harry D. Fischer, MD, Chief of Rheumatology, Beth Israel Medical Center New York »

Although rheumatoid arthritis is incurable, you can definitely manage it with the treatments named in this video. Watch it to learn about your options.

Transcript: RA may not be curable, but current treatments allow patients to manage their symptoms and live full, PRODUCTIVE lives. If you’ve been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, it’s IMPERATIVE that you start treatment immediately to prevent joint damage and manage symptoms. The most popular RA drugs are called DMARDS, or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. Various DMARDs are available, but methotrexate is the most common choice. DMARDs are the only drugs that not only ease symptoms but actually SLOW RA’s progression. They do this by modifying and suppressing the immune system, which is overactive in people with RA. DMARDs often trigger side effects and can take more than a month to start working, but their benefit is invaluable. They’re most commonly prescribed as an oral medication. BIOLOGIC response modifiers are a NEWER type of DMARD. They are prescribed to patients who haven’t responded well to the TRADITIONAL DMARDs. They’re made of lab-created natural immune proteins that can ease inflammation in the joints. There are several types, but the most popular are tumor necrosis factor—or TNF --inhibitors. Most biologics come in the form of self-administered injections and they start working within 4 to 6 weeks of the first dose. When more IMMEDIATE pain relief is needed, doctors can prescribe corticosteroids, such as prednisone. They’ relieve symptoms while a patient waits for the positive effects of a DMARD to kick in. They’re administered orally, intravenously, or through injection. Finally, NSAIDs—or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—also reduce inflammation in the joints. But NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen don’t slow down RA, they simply relieve discomfort. Doctors MAY prescribe just one of these medications, but often treatment will involve a combination of a traditional DMARD and a biologic DMARD. People with RA should remember that medication alone is NOT the only way to help keep symptoms at bay. Moderate exercise and physical activity are also effective! For more information about RA, watch additional videos in this series. More »

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