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Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis - Medications

Most children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) need to take medicine to reduce inflammation and control pain and to help prevent more damage to the joints. When inflammation and pain are controlled, a child is more willing and able to do joint exercises to improve joint strength and prevent loss of movement.

Many different medicines are used to treat JIA. No single medicine works for every child. Your doctor will try to find medicine that helps relieve symptoms and that has few side effects. This may take some time

Medicine choices

Although treatment varies depending on the needs of each child, certain medicines are often tried first (first-line medicines), while others are often saved to try later if they are needed (second-line medicines).

Medicines tried first

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Naproxen is the most often used NSAID treatment for JIA because of its low incidence of side effects compared to its effectiveness.3Ibuprofen may be used instead. But in general, less than one-third of children will have significant relief from NSAIDs.1 If you see no improvement after 6 weeks, your doctor may try a different NSAID.

Medicines tried later

Medicines to treat inflammatory eye disease

What to think about

Gold salts were one of the first treatments used for joint inflammation. You may still hear about them. But injected gold salts have been replaced by methotrexate for the treatment of JIA. Gold salts taken by mouth (oral) have not been shown to be effective for JIA.3

Some children with JIA gain significant benefit from early methotrexate treatment, and this treatment is becoming more common in an effort to prevent joint and eye damage. Early treatment with methotrexate is often used for polyarticular JIA.1

Biologic therapy is a newer option to treat JIA that doesn't respond to other treatments. Biologics such as etanercept have had some success in relieving symptoms and decreasing the number of flare-ups.

Combination therapy—such as using methotrexate with sulfasalazine, hydroxychloroquine, or etanercept—has been used on a limited basis to treat JIA. Most medical experience with combination therapy is with adults. Only children with severe JIA that has not improved with methotrexate or sulfasalazine are considered for combination treatment.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 05, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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