Arthritis Medications (cont.)

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.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/1/2014