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New Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Triple Threat

While there are more choices than ever to treat RA, researchers also have found new promise in some old treatments.

Recent studies show that some of the first DMARDs -- methotrexate (Otrexup, Rheumatrex, Trexall), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine, Azulfidine EN-tabs, Sulfazine, Sulfazine EC), and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) -- when combined, work as well as methotrexate plus a biologic. This “triple therapy,” as it's called, gives you and your doctor another approach if methotrexate alone is not working. It's also an option if you're wary of biologics because of their side effects or high cost.

Promise for the Future

There’s still much to learn about why and how RA happens. Building on recent discoveries, areas under study include:

  • Researchers are looking at genes to see why some people get RA and some don’t, and why some cases are worse than others. This data can lead to biologics -- like JAK inhibitors -- that fight the causes of RA at a cellular level. Several such drugs are in the works.
  • Another area of RA research focuses on proteins made to target molecules that affect your immune system. They're called monoclonal antibodies, and several are approved by the FDA for use in RA. New ones are under study, too.
  • Statins, commonly used to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, are being studied to see if they can beat rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Medical and dental researchers are revisiting the link between joint disease and gum disease.

Discoveries have made it possible for you to remain active and work much longer than was possible 20 years ago. Scientists are thinking about RA in exciting new ways, and the next generation of treatments shows great promise.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on November 21, 2014
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