How It Works
Methotrexate is similar to the vitamin called folic acid. It works
by competing with folic acid in cells. This blocks the way the cell is able to
make genetic material, and the cell dies.
Methotrexate may be given as a pill or as a shot in the vein
(intravenously, or IV) or in the muscle (intramuscularly, or IM).
Why It Is Used
Methotrexate can be used to treat several conditions and diseases,
How Well It Works
Methotrexate effectively treats many conditions and diseases,
Cancer. The type and extent of a cancer will
determine whether methotrexate is used. It is commonly used in combination with
other chemotherapy medicines.
Autoimmune diseases. Methotrexate
is used to relieve joint pain and other symptoms. It is given to help control diseases such as
rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriasis, and Sjögren's
- Ectopic pregnancy. Methotrexate is used to end an
ectopic pregnancy in early pregnancy. It is not used to treat a ruptured
Side effects from methotrexate are usually temporary and occur more
often with long-term use. Side effects may include:
Less common side effects include:
- Sun sensitivity and easy
Diarrhea or blood in the stool.
- Easy bruising and bleeding.
- Skin rash or
- Chills and
Long-term side effects may include:
Liver damage. The risk of liver damage is
increased in people who have other problems, such as diabetes, liver disease,
or a history of alcohol abuse.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference
is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Methotrexate can cause birth defects. Do not use this drug if you
are pregnant or wish to become pregnant or father a child while you are taking
Many antibiotics can increase the level of methotrexate in your
blood. Make sure your doctor knows that you are taking methotrexate if you need
to take an antibiotic for another problem.
You will have your blood drawn often while you are taking
Do not drink alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine, while
you are being treated with methotrexate.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Primary Medical Reviewer
||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
||Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology
Current as of
||June 28, 2013