Video Q & A:

RA Medication Basics

Question:

Why am I taking strong medication so soon after diagnosis?

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

Strong medication seems like it should be reserved for people with severe disease, but people with rheumatoid arthritis take DMARDs soon after diagnosis. Find out why.

Transcript: People with rheumatoid arthritis START OUT their treatment taking the same medication prescribed to those who’ve had the disease for YEARS. This wasn’t ALWAYS the case. Newly diagnosed patients used to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. You know NSAIDs well—ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen sodium. They relieve pain. BUT… pain relief DOESN’T mean that your RA is getting better. That’s why doctors began prescribing disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs early on in treatment. These are the only drugs that specifically slow the progression of your disease, instead of JUST alleviating symptoms. All DMARDs treat RA by regulating your immune system so that it does not attack your joint tissue. The most popular DMARD is called methotrexate. Biologic response modifiers are the NEWEST type of DMARDs. They also slow RA progression by affecting your immune system, but THEY use a different mechanism than traditional DMARDs. Common biologics include etanercept, adalimumab, and abatacept. You may worry that it’s a mistake to take heavy-duty drugs such as these, so SOON after diagnosis. While they do come with some side effects—for example, you are more prone to infection while on these drugs—you will end up being grateful for them. They are the key to avoiding debilitating joint pain and deformity. Want to learn more about RA medication? Check out other videos in this series. More »

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