Arthritis Medications (cont.)
Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs or DMARDs: While "first-line" medications (NSAIDs and corticosteroids) can relieve joint inflammation and pain, they do not necessarily prevent joint destruction or deformity. For patients with an aggressively destructive form of rheumatoid arthritis, medications other than NSAIDs and corticosteroids are needed. These "second-line" or "slow-acting" medicines (listed below) may take weeks to months to become effective. They are used for long periods of time, even years, at varying doses. If effective, they can promote remission, thereby retarding the progression of joint destruction and deformity. Sometimes a number of second-line medications are used together as combination therapy.
Hydroxychloroquine (PLAQUENIL) is related to quinine, and is used in the treatment of malaria. It is used over long periods for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Side effects include upset stomach, skin rashes, muscle weakness, and vision changes. Even though vision changes are rare, patients taking PLAQUENIL should be monitored by an eye doctor (opthalmologist).
Sulfasalazine (AZULFADINE) is an oral medication traditionally used in the treatment of mild to moderately severe inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's colitis. AZULFADINE is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis in combination with antiinflammatory medications. AZULFADINE is generally well tolerated. Common side effects include rash and upset stomach. Because AZULFADINE is made up of sulfa and salicylate compounds, it should be avoided by patients with known sulfa allergies.
Gold salts have been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis throughout most of this century. Gold thioglucose (SOLGANAL) and gold thiomalate (MYOCHRYSINE) are given by injection, initially on a weekly basis for months to years. Oral gold, auranofin (RIDAURA) was introduced in the 1980's. Side effects of gold (oral and injectable) include skin rash, mouth sores, kidney damage with leakage of protein in the urine, and bone marrow damage with anemia and low white cell count. Patients receiving gold treatment are regularly monitored with blood and urine tests. Oral gold can cause diarrhea.
Fibromyalgia Medications: Since the symptoms of fibromyalgia are diverse and vary among patients, treatment programs have to be individualized. Treatment programs are most effective when they combine patient education, stress reduction, regular exercise, and medications. Recent studies have verified that the best outcome for each patient results from a combination of approaches that involves the patient in customization of the treatment plan.
Glucocorticoids: Glucocorticoids are medications that include cortisone and related drugs. A glucocorticoid is hormone that predominantly affects the metabolism of carbohydrates and, to a lesser extent, fats and proteins (and has other effects). Glucocorticoids are made in the outside portion (the cortex) of the adrenal gland and chemically classed as steroids. Cortisol is the major natural glucocorticoid. The term glucocorticoid also applies to equivalent hormones synthesized in the laboratory. Glucocorticoid drugs are also called corticosteroids.