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Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug Guide

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Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs: Biologic Response Modifiers

Biologic response modifiers are a type of DMARD. They target the part of the immune system response that leads to inflammation and joint damage. By doing this, they can improve your condition and help relieve symptoms.

These RA medications can't cure rheumatoid arthritis. If the drugs are stopped, symptoms may return. But just as with other DMARDs, biologic response modifiers may slow the progression of the disease or help put it into remission. If your doctor prescribes one of these RA drugs, you will likely take it in combination with methotrexate. Biologic response modifiers are taken by injection and/or by IV and are expensive. Their long-term effects are unknown.

NOTE: Before taking biologics, it's important to get appropriate vaccinations and to be tested for tuberculosis and hepatitis B and C.

Examples of biologic response modifiers:
 

NameBrand NamePrecautionsPotential Side Effects
abataceptOrencia• Tell your doctor if you have a serious infection, such as pneumonia or COPD.
• Do not take live vaccines.
• Get tested for TB before starting treatment.
• Cough
• Dizziness
• Headache
• Serious infection
• Infusion reaction
adalimumabHumira

• Tell your doctor if you have a serious infection, such as pneumonia.
• Do not take live vaccines.

Get tested for TB before starting treatment.

• Redness, pain, itching, or bruising at injection site
• Upper respiratory infection
anakinraKineret• Tell your doctor if you have a serious infection or a history of it.
• Do not take live vaccines.
• Redness, swelling, pain, or bruising at injection site
• Low  white blood cell count
• Upper respiratory infection
etanerceptEnbrelDo not take if you have congestive heart failure, and tell your doctor if you have:
• A serious infection
• Been exposed to TB
• A serious nervous system disorder
• Do not take live vaccines.
 

• Redness, pain, itching, swelling, or bruising at injection site
• Headache
• Sinus infection

Rare complications:
• Lupus
• Multiple sclerosis
• Seizures

infliximabRemicadeTell your doctor if you have:
•  A serious infection, especially hepatitis B
• Been exposed to TB
• A serious nervous system disorder
• Do not take live vaccines.

• Chest pain
• Hives and trouble breathing
• Changes in blood pressure
• Redness, pain, swelling, or itching at the injection site
• Sinus infection

Rare complications:
• Lupus
• Multiple sclerosis
• Seizures

rituximabRituxan• Tell your doctor if you have a serious infection, or heart or lung disease.
• Do not take live vaccines.

• Abdominal pain
• Chills or fever
• Headache
• Infection
• Itching

Serious side effects:
•  Infusion reactions
• Tumor lysis syndrome
• Severe skin reactions

golimumabSimponi• Tell your doctor if you have any infections or health conditions, like heart disease, MS, or diabetes• Get tested for TB before starting treatment.
• Do not take live vaccines.
• See your doctor right away if you develop signs of infection while taking this drug.

• Redness at the injection site
• Upper respiratory infections
• Nausea
• Abnormal liver tests

Rare complications:
• Serious infections, like TB, fungal infections, and reactivation of a previous hepatitis B infection
• Lupus
• Multiple sclerosis

certolizumab pegolCimzia• Tell your doctor if you have an infection or are being treated for an infection, or if you have diabetes, HIV, hepatitis B, cancer, or TB.• Heart failure
• Nerve problems such as MS
• Allergic reactions
• Autoimmune problems like lupus
• Reactivation of hepatitis B
tocilizumabActemra• Tell your doctor if you have a serious infection, history of gastrointestinal perforation, or if you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant. 
• Do not take live vaccines.
• Upper respiratory tract infection
• Inflammation of the nose or throat
• High blood pressure
• Headache
• Abnormal liver enzyme level
• Serious infections, like TB, and infections from bacteria, viruses, or fungi

 

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