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Arthritis Drug Overview

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Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)

These drugs are often able to alter the course of some forms of inflammatory arthritis -- diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis -- that can destroy the joints. Often these drugs are the first ones used for these diseases.

DMARDs work by interfering with or suppressing the immune system that attacks the joints in people with certain forms of inflammatory arthritis. Aggressive treatment of arthritis often involves using one or more DMARD.

Although effective, DMARDs have a higher risk of serious side effects. It also often takes weeks for you to notice the benefits of taking a DMARD. Therefore, they are often combined with a faster working drug such as an NSAID, another painkiller, or steroids to help relieve some arthritis symptoms.

Biologic Therapy for Arthritis

Approved to treat certain forms of inflammatory arthritis such as psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis, biologic response modifiers (biologics) work by altering the function of the immune system that attacks the joints.

These drugs must be administered by intravenous (by vein) infusion or by an injection, and they are more expensive than other arthritis drugs.

Chemotherapy Drugs

Chemotherapy, traditionally used as cancer treatment, helps people with certain inflammatory and autoimmune diseases because it slows cell reproduction and decreases certain products made by these cells that cause an inflammatory response to occur. The doses of medication used for rheumatic or autoimmune conditions are lower than the doses used for cancer treatment.

Gout Drugs

Some medicines are used to reduce the inflammation associated with acute gout attacks while others reduce the high levels of uric acid that cause the disease.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 24, 2013
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