The past 20 years have brought many new ways to treat RA, and there are more around the corner. Here's how the face of treatment has changed.
Then: Twenty years ago, your doctor told you to take over-the-counter or prescription drugs to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. You got a corticosteroid shot. The doctor waited to prescribe stronger medicines -- and choices were limited back then -- until your RA got worse. The approach was to treat flares, not the disease itself.
Now: You and...
Medicines called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can slow or sometimes prevent joint destruction. Starting treatment early with DMARDs can reduce the severity of the disease.2 DMARDs are also called immunosuppressive drugs or slow-acting antirheumatic drugs (SAARDs). These medicines are usually taken over a long period to help control the disease.
DMARDs can be thought of as nonbiologic or biologic, depending on how they are made and how they act in the body. But they are all used to block harmful responses from the body's immune system. DMARDs are sometimes combined with one another or with other medicines. By combining medicines, you may be able to take lower doses of individual medicines. This may reduce your risk of side effects.
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are usually started within 3 months of your diagnosis. They are used to control the progression of RA and to try to prevent joint damage and disability. DMARDs are often given in combination with other medicines.
There is a newer biologic drug called tofacitinib (Xeljanz) for adults who have moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. This medicine is for people who have not responded well to methotrexate or who cannot take it. Tofacitinib is taken by mouth. It reduces the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and allows people to be more active. But the long-term safety of this medicine is still being studied.5, 6