Sulfasalazine for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Sulfasalazine is a medicine formed from salicylic acid (the
active ingredient in aspirin) and an antibiotic, sulfapyridine. It is given by
mouth (orally) and is available in time-release tablets.
How It Works
Sulfasalazine reduces joint inflammation
rheumatoid arthritis and slows or stops the disease
from getting worse. It is also often used to treat inflammatory bowel
Why It Is Used
Sulfasalazine is used for early,
milder cases of rheumatoid arthritis. It may be used with other medicines, such
as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or with disease-modifying
antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for more active rheumatoid arthritis.
People with sulfa or salicylate allergies should not use this
How Well It Works
Studies indicate that sulfasalazine
is effective in relieving the symptoms and slowing the progression of
rheumatoid arthritis. Although sulfasalazine treatment may show results within
1 month, it typically takes several months to be effective.1
Sulfasalazine is usually well-tolerated.
Side effects are usually temporary and may include:
- Abdominal discomfort.
Rare side effects include low blood counts and allergic
See Drug Reference for a
full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all
What To Think About
Talk to your doctor
before taking this medicine if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming
pregnant. Do not take sulfasalazine if you are breast-feeding.
Sulfasalazine has been used for many years to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
It is usually used to treat people with early, milder cases of rheumatoid
arthritis. It is used in combination with methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine
in what is sometimes referred to as triple therapy. Research continues on
sulfasalazine's effectiveness in halting the progression of rheumatoid
arthritis in comparison with newer DMARDs, such as leflunomide (Arava),
etanercept (Enbrel), and infliximab (Remicade).
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Kwoh CK, et al. (2002). Guidelines for the management
of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis and Rheumatism,