Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Pill Instead of a Needle May Soon Be Option for RA

Studies Show a New Kind of Drug Works at Least as Well as a Current RA Biologic and Is Effective as a Stand-Alone Treatment
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 8, 2012 -- A new pill may soon offer people with rheumatoid arthritis an alternative to the injections and intravenous infusions that many rely on to treat their disease.

The drug, tofacitinib, is a twice-daily pill that works by turning down the body's immune attack on its own joints and organs. It works in a slightly different way than currently available treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, or RA.

"It's pretty important and pretty exciting, and some have described it as a biologic drug in a pill," says Jeffrey R. Curtis, MD, MPH, director of the Arthritis Clinical Intervention Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Curtis worked on early trials of the treatment, but was not involved in the current research.

Biologics have revolutionized the treatment of RA, but they must be taken by injection or IV infusion. They are made from natural sources that use a biologic method, instead of a chemical method, to make them.

A pair of studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that the treatment works at least as well as Humira, an older biologic. Tofacitinib also reduced the number of swollen and painful joints in about twice as many patients compared to a placebo pill. That was true whether or not it was used in combination with methotrexate, the standard initial treatment for the disease.

The Research

The studies included a total of more than 1,300 people with RA. Significant improvements in physical function were seen as early as the second week on the drug.

The studies didn't follow patients long enough to show whether tofacitinib might slow the physical destruction of the joints as other disease-modifying anti-rheumatic (DMARD) drugs do.

Both studies were paid for by Pfizer, the company that hopes to market the drug.

The FDA is weighing whether or not to approve tofacitinib, which works in a new way by blocking Janus kinase (JAK) enzymes inside cells. These enzymes help to control the chemical messengers that ramp up the immune response. Because the drug acts earlier in the immune response than most biologics, it has broader effects in the body.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

rubbing hands
Avoid these 6 common mistakes.
mature couple exercising
Decrease pain, increase energy.
mature woman threading needle
How much do you know?
Swelling, fatigue, pain, and more.
Lucille Ball
Hand bones X-ray
prescription pills
Woman massaging her neck
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Woman rubbing shoulder
Working out with light weights