Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the second most common type of arthritis. It’s an inflammatory disease that is caused by an autoimmune condition. The disease occurs when your body attacks its own healthy joint tissues. This results in redness, inflammation, and pain. The main goal of RA drugs is to block inflammation. This helps prevent joint damage. Read on to learn about the many treatment options for Rheumatoid Arthritis.
DMARDs and biologics
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are used to decrease inflammation. Unlike other medications that temporarily ease pain and inflammation, DMARDs can slow the progression of RA. This means that you may have fewer symptoms and less damage over time.
The most common DMARDs used to treat RA include:
- hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
- leflunomide (Arava)
- methotrexate (Trexall)
- sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)
- minocycline (Minocin)
Biologics are injectable drugs. They work by blocking specific inflammatory pathways made by immune cells. This reduces inflammation caused by RA. Doctors prescribe biologics when DMARDs alone aren’t enough to treat RA symptoms. Biologics aren’t recommended for people with compromised immune systems or an infection. This is because they can raise your risk of serious infections.
The most common biologics include:
- abatacept (Orencia)
- rituximab (Rituxan)
- tocilizumab (Actemra)
- anakinra (Kineret)
- adalimumab (Humira)
- etanercept (Enbrel)
- infliximab (Remicade)
- certolizumab pegol (Cimzia)
- golimumab (Simponi)
NSAIDs are among the most commonly used RA drugs. Unlike other pain relievers, NSAIDs seem to be more effective in treating symptoms of RA. This is because they prevent inflammation. Some people use OTC NSAIDs. However, stronger NSAIDs are available with a prescription.
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, Nuprin)
OTC ibuprofen is the most common NSAID. Unless instructed by your doctor, you should not use ibuprofen for more than several days at a time. Taking this drug for too long can cause stomach bleeding. This risk is greater in seniors. Ibuprofen is available in prescription strengths as well. In prescription versions, the dosage is higher. Ibuprofen may also be combined with another type of pain drug called opioids.
Naproxen sodium (Aleve)
Naproxen sodium is an OTC NSAID. It’s often used as an alternative to ibuprofen. This is because it causes slightly fewer side effects. Prescription versions of this drug offer stronger dosages.
Aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin, St. Joseph)
Aspirin is an oral pain reliever. It’s used to treat mild pain, fever, and inflammation. It can also be used to prevent heart attack and stroke.