Several different types of medications may be prescribed to treat patients with rheumatic diseases.
Corticosteroids are usually given by injections, but sometimes can be taken by mouth. Drugs in this category include:
A shot of corticosteriods in a joint can offer some pain relief for four to six months. Knee joints may be treated with hylan G-F20 (Synvisc®) and hyaluronate (Hyalgan®), but treatment requires three to five weekly injections, depending on the preparation. Pain relief is usually achieved more slowly with these injected medications than with corticosteroids, but they can be effective longer.
Serious side effects can occur if a person takes these types of drugs for long periods of time, including the development of corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis. In such cases, the patient's bone density should be monitored before treatment starts and during the course of treatment to ensure no significant loss of bone mass.
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) seem to affect immune systems that have gone out of control, but how exactly DMARDs work is not really known. Common DMARDs include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen. All of these are available without a doctor's prescription. For mild to moderate pain in the joints or back, these may be all that is needed, but possible side effects include:
Children who have rheumatic conditions, such as juvenile arthritis, can use the same nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are given to adults. The doses must be adjusted for the size of the child. Liquid forms of the drugs or ones that do not need to be given as often are helpful in treating children.
Antidepressants can have several benefits for a person who has a rheumatic condition, including:
Common antidepressants used to treat arthritis and other rheumatic conditions include:
Immunosuppressants basically tame out-of-control immune systems. Some of these drugs are cytotoxic, meaning they attack and eliminate cells associated with the disease. Immunosuppressants that may be prescribed for rheumatic diseases include:
To learn more about the drugs used to treat the specific rheumatic conditions, click the links below:
Newer agents and drugs being researched include:
Certain drugs, such as steroids (cortisones), must be used with caution on children because they can have a bad effect on growth or cause other side effects. Some drugs that adults can use have not been approved by the FDA for children to use.