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Common Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs

Drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis symptomsRheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory form of arthritis. RA patients must deal with debilitating pain and inflammation in their joints on a regular basis. In addition, the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can get worse over time if this condition is not properly treated. With the proper medication and disease management, there is a chance that you rheumatoid arthritis could actually go into remission.  Certain arthritis drugs play a pivotal role in helping to control the progression and symptoms of RA.

In most cases, patients will want to start their new RA drug regimen as soon as possible following their diagnosis. Fortunately, your doctor will help you decide which rheumatoid arthritis medications will work best for your current condition. If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, then you may be interested in taking part in our RA clinical trials in Birmingham, AL.

5 Main Types Drugs for RA

Depending on the situation, doctors may choose to have their patient take a single rheumatoid arthritis medication at a time. Most of the time however, these drugs will be more effective when taken in combination. When it comes to current drugs available for rheumatoid arthritis, there are 5 main types:

  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • Biologic response modifiers (a type of DMARD)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
  • Analgesics
  • Glucocorticoids

Nowadays, doctors tend to take a more aggressive approach to treating rheumatoid arthritis. Results have shown that these types of regimens produce fewer symptoms, less long-term joint damage, more joint mobility, and better quality of life. If it is at all possible, they want to put their patient’s disease into remission.

Disease-modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)

One of the premier drugs available for combating rheumatoid arthritis, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are able to slow or even stop the progression of rheumatoid arthritis for some patients. DMARDs work by interrupting the autoimmune response that causes the painful inflammation associated with this disease, but it can take several months before any benefits are realized.

For many RA patients, taking DMARDs have allowed them to live a better quality of life. DMARDs are often prescribed in combination with NSAIDs or glucocorticoids. Though, in some cases, the DMARDs alone may be all the patient really needs.

There are of course some draw backs associated with DMARDs. As this is an RA drug which specifically targets the patient’s immune system, this can leave that person less capable of fending off infection. RA patients who are taking DMARDs need to be wary of the early signs of infection, and they may also need to get regular blood screenings while taking this medication. This way doctors can detect if the drug is having a negative impact on the blood cells or any other vital organs.

Biologic Response Modifiers

Biologic response modifiers are actually a specific type of DMARD. These drugs will target the exact part of the immune system that is causing the inflammation and joint damage. When successful used, biologic response modifiers can help to relieve some of the worst RA symptoms and improve a patient’s condition.

Now, these types of drugs are not capable of curing rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, symptoms could return if patients decide to stop taking their medication. However, if used effectively, biologic response modifiers are capable of slowing disease progression and could even put it in remission. These are often prescribed in combination with methotrexate. However, this form of RA medication is expensive and long-term effects are unclear.


Glucocorticoids are steroids which act as a powerful anti-inflammatory that can effectively block other immune responses within the patient’s body. This type if RA drug is helpful in reliving painful RA symptoms and it may be able to stop, or at least slow, the rate of damage in the joints. Patients can choose to take glucocorticoids in pill form or via injection.

Unfortunately, as a form of steroid, there is also a significant risk of side effects following long term usage. For this reason, doctors often advise that their patients only take glucocorticoids for brief periods, say for instance if they have experienced an RA flare-up. Patients who do experience severe side effects should speak to their doctor immediately before making any other changes.


These RA drugs work by inhibiting a specific enzyme which causes inflammation. If they can reduce the level of inflammation, they can also reduce the amount of pain and swelling that a person with RA must cope with. On the other hands, NSAIDs are not able to reduce the joint damage that is caused by this chronic disease. For that reason, they are often taken in combination with other rheumatoid arthritis medications.

Similar to the glucocorticoids, patients are not advised to use NSAIDs for longer than brief stretches of time, as they can actually cause fairly severe issues with the digestive tract. Doctors will carefully examine their patient’s medical history before choosing to prescribe, or not, this medication. Anyone who has had a history of stomach ulcers or liver problems should not take NSAIDs.


Analgesics are effective at reducing the sometimes excruciating pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, but they don’t have any effect on joint damage or swelling. Today, people who have RA have an option of getting a prescription or buying-over-the-counter analgesics. The most powerful form of analgesics is actually narcotics, but these are not advisable for anyone who has a history of drug abuse or alcoholism.

Rheumatoid arthritis is painful, but it is manageable. Talk with your doctor to plan the appropriate course of remedial action for your case of RA. Together, you and your physician can select the best combination of the above treatments so that you can take control of your RA.