Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: Features of DMARD and SSARD Drugs - Topic Overview
Children who have juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) are first treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that often provide relief and reduce inflammation. NSAIDs are considered the first-line treatment for JIA. Second-line drug therapy-known interchangeably as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and as slow-acting antirheumatic drugs (SAARDs)-for JIA may be recommended when a child continues to have joint pain, swelling, or both despite rest, exercise, use of NSAIDs, and physical therapy.
DMARDs/SAARDs include azathioprine, cyclosporine, etanercept, methotrexate, and sulfasalazine.
DMARDs/SAARDs have a lot in common.
- They are slow to take effect. It may take 8 to 24 weeks for the drug to show a benefit.
- They have a small risk of serious side effects (on blood cells, eyes, kidney, or liver). Side effects can be detected with close monitoring and are reversible if the drug is stopped.
- They have a moderate risk of side effects that may be uncomfortable but are not serious (nausea, skin rash, mouth sores, diarrhea, hair thinning).
- While these medicines offer effective treatment for many children, they are not a reasonable treatment option for others. Side effects or ineffectiveness, or both, are common reasons that children are withdrawn from DMARD/SAARD treatment.
- NSAIDs are often used together with one of these medicines.
Although these medicines are often called "disease-modifying," it has been hard to prove that they truly prevent long-term joint damage. But they often relieve pain and swelling.