RA medication

RA is a very variable condition, so doctors do not start all patients in exactly the same way on the same drug regimen. The treatments given and the order they in which they are tried will depend on factors such as the severity of symptoms and how long you have had them and test results. 

Dependent on the symptoms, the length of time someone may have had the disease prior to diagnosis, the test results and the consultant’s diagnosis, the treatment may include painkillers, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), a single disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) or a combination of DMARDs. Usually, steroids will be added in either as tablets or as an intramuscular (meaning ‘into the muscle’) injection to help treat symptoms whilst the DMARD/s take effect, which can be up to 12 weeks. Regular follow-up visits to the specialist are really important in the early months to enable the clinical team to adjust or alter the treatment to benefit each individual patient.  

01. Steroids

Steroids are used sparingly for conditions such as RA, because of the side effects, in the smallest possible dose for the shortest time. They can be given as tablets or injected or by infusion (a ‘drip’). 

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02. DMARDs

‘DMARD’ (pronounced ‘dee-mard’) stands for disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug. These drugs are usually prescribed early on in the disease by the rheumatology team. They help to slow down the progression of your RA and in doing so can improve the day-to-day symptoms of your disease. 

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03. Biologics

Biologic drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are made from proteins. They work by blocking the activity of a key chemical or cell or protein involved in inflammation that gives rise to joint swelling and other symptoms. They are powerful and specific therapies that target very particular parts of the immune system. 

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04. Biosimilars

A biosimilar medicine is a biological medicine manufactured to be similar to an existing licensed ‘reference’ biological medicine. It has no meaningful differences from the original biological medicine (originator) in terms of quality, safety or efficacy. 

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05. JAK inhibitors

JAK inhibitors are the newest class of drugs used to treat RA. Like biologic drugs, these are ‘targeted’ therapies, which work on the immune response. Unlike the biologics, they can be taken in tablet form. 

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06. General medicine information

People diagnosed with RA will often be on multiple medications. In addition to disease control, there may be medications for symptom control or other health conditions. You may also need general information about how to report side effects or which vaccinations you can have. 

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07. Drug updates

From new drug treatments being approved or starting drug trials to an improved understanding of the drugs already existing as treatments in RA and the optimal ways of using these drugs to treat the condition, our drug updates will help to inform patients of the latest information on RA drugs. 

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NRAS in 2023

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