Rheumatoid Arthritis Medication Options
- Analgesics are pain relievers. They are a medication option used to help ease pain. They do not cure or improve rheumatoid arthritis. Narcotic pain killers like Vicodin and Darvon need to be used with caution because they can be addicting. Ultram (tramadol), also available as Ultracet, which includes acetaminophen, is a non-narcotic analgesic that is available with a doctor's prescription. Straight Tylenol (acetaminophen) is available over-the-counter for mild to moderate pain.
- There are a number of different anti-inflammatory drugs available as an option for rheumatoid arthritis. NSAIDs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Ibuprofen and naproxen are NSAIDs and are available in prescription strength and over-the-counter in lower strengths (Motrin, Aleve). Celebrex (celecoxib) is a Cox-2 inhibitor that is also an anti-inflammatory but is a bit easier on the gastrointestinal tract. Anti-inflammatory drugs help to reduce the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Steroids also reduce inflammation, but they are more powerful than NSAIDs. They actually work on the immune system, reducing the white blood cell function that can lead to the joint-damaging inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. Corticosteroids like cortisone and prednisone, as well as glucocorticoids are the most widely used. Steroids can, however, have many side effects, including high blood pressure, bruising and high cholesterol. Patients can also develop a dependency to them, so they should be stopped gradually to avoid serious problems.
Biological Response Modifiers
- Biologics actually help modify the immune system by targeting the cytokines. These proteins play a role in the inflammation of the disease. Biologic response modifiers can actually slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Humira (adalimumab), Enbrel (etanercept), Remicade (infliximab) and Rituxan (rituximab) are widely prescribed biological response modifiers. Unfortunately, these medication options can also other infections in the body to flare.
- Disease modifying antirheumatic drugs, often used in conjunction with biological response modifiers, are widely prescribed to help slow joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatrex (methotrexate), Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) and Arava (leflunomide) are used often for rheumatoid arthritis. These medications must be used with caution, though, as they suppress the immune system and lead to greater infection risk.