Advances in Arthritis Treatment

There is no cure for arthritis, but important progress has been made in RA therapy in recent years. A number of disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can slow progression of RA disease. For many patients, remission is possible using of two or more DMARDs, so early aggressive treatment is becoming the standard of care. 

Treatment usually begins with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen to relieve pain and inflammation. Duexis was approved in 2011 for arthritis and ulcer prevention; it combines ibuprofen with a drug to protect against stomach damage.

Depending on disease severity as RA progresses, patients are treated using two or more DMARDs, such as methotrexate or plaquenil, to slow and prevent joint destruction. The newest DMARD, leflunomide, was introduced in 2006. 

A newer group of biologic medicines called TNF (tumor necrosis factor alpha) inhibitor drugs also can help slow RA progression. One of the first TNF inhibitors was aldalimumab, introduced in 2002. 

Several new medicines have been approved for patients with “resistant” RA who do not respond to DMARD or TNF therapy. Abatacept and rituximab were introduced in 2006, and tocilizumab was approved in 2010.

There are, as yet, no medicines that can slow or halt progression of osteoarthritis, but physicians use several drugs (methotrexate, plaquenil) to reduce inflammation and control pain. Arthritis facts and news about therapy is available from the Arthritis Foundation

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