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Medications for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Other names: Arthritis; Arthritis, Rheumatoid; RA

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term inflammatory condition that can affect the joints and other tissues and organs in the body.

What causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is considered an autoimmune condition, which means it is caused by your immune system making antibodies which attack your tissue.

Experts are not sure why the immune system in some people does this, but they have identified certain risk factors that make some people more likely than others to develop RA. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Hormones: Women are more likely to develop RA than men
  • Having a family history of RA: Some evidence that RA can run in families

Some research suggests triggers, such as infection, trauma, or injury may kick off RA; however, none of these have been proven.

What are the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The main symptoms of RA are joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Usually, symptoms develop gradually over several weeks, but in some people, symptoms develop rapidly.

The small joints of the hand and feet (such as the wrists, fingers, knees, toes, and ankles) are usually the first to become affected. Stiffness is usually worse first thing in the morning or after periods of inactivity and may make movement difficult. RA usually affects the joints on both sides of the body equally.

The pain is typically described as throbbing and aching. Joint stiffness is usually worse in the morning but still tends to persist, unlike stiffness caused by osteoarthritis which tends to wear off after about 30 minutes. Because the tissue inside the joints is affected, joints may look swollen and feel hot and tender to the touch. Some people develop firm swellings under the skin, called nodules,  around affected joints.
Joint and bone destruction can occur over time if the disease process is not well-controlled.

Patients may also lack energy and have experience fevers, sweating, a poor appetite, and weight loss. Other symptoms may occur depending on what other parts of the body are affected, for example, dry eyes, or heart or lung problems.

How is Rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed?

If you develop any symptoms suggestive of RA, see your doctor. Your doctor will complete a physical exam checking your joints for warmth or redness, and also check your reflexes and joint strength.

Other tests that may be conducted include:

  • Blood tests
  • C-reactive protein (CRC)
  • Rheumatoid Factor test
  • X-rays
  • An MRI.

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis treated?

Rheumatoid arthritis usually requires lifelong treatment with:

  • Medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Targeted home exercises
  • Health education
  • Possibly surgery.


Early, aggressive treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can delay joint destruction. 

Drugs Used to Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis

The following list of medications are in some way related to, or used in the treatment of this condition.

Drug name Rx / OTC Pregnancy CSA Alcohol Reviews Rating Activity
hydroxychloroquine N N 128 reviews 6.4

Generic name: hydroxychloroquine systemic

Brand name:  Plaquenil

Drug class: antirheumatics, antimalarial quinolines

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

adalimumab B N 124 reviews 6.2

Generic name: adalimumab systemic

Brand names:  Humira, Abrilada, Amjevita, Cyltezo, Hadlima, Hyrimoz …show all

Drug class: antirheumatics, TNF alfa inhibitors

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

etanercept B N 121 reviews 8.0

Generic name: etanercept systemic

Brand names:  Enbrel, Erelzi, Eticovo

Drug class: antirheumatics, TNF alfa inhibitors

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph

Humira B N 120 reviews 6.1

Generic name: adalimumab systemic

Drug class: antirheumatics, TNF alfa inhibitors

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

Enbrel B N 117 reviews 8.0

Generic name: etanercept systemic

Drug class: antirheumatics, TNF alfa inhibitors

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

methotrexate X N X 109 reviews 6.1

Generic name: methotrexate systemic

Brand names:  Otrexup, Rasuvo, RediTrex, Trexall …show all

Drug class: antimetabolites, antirheumatics, antipsoriatics, other immunosuppressants

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

tofacitinib C N 98 reviews 5.4

Generic name: tofacitinib systemic

Brand names:  Xeljanz, Xeljanz XR

Drug class: antirheumatics

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph

Xeljanz C N 84 reviews 5.2

Generic name: tofacitinib systemic

Drug class: antirheumatics

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

leflunomide X N X 74 reviews 5.7

Generic name: leflunomide systemic

Brand name:  Arava

Drug class: antirheumatics, selective immunosuppressants

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

rituximab C N 71 reviews 7.5

Generic name: rituximab systemic

Brand name:  Rituxan

Drug class: antirheumatics, CD20 monoclonal antibodies

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph

Plaquenil N N 63 reviews 6.9

Generic name: hydroxychloroquine systemic

Drug class: antirheumatics, antimalarial quinolines

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

acetaminophen / hydrocodone Off Label C 2 X 58 reviews 5.1

Generic name: acetaminophen / hydrocodone systemic

Brand names:  Norco, Lortab, Anexsia, Co-Gesic, Hycet, Lorcet Plus, Theracodophen Low 90, Xodol …show all

Drug class: narcotic analgesic combinations

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, Prescribing Information

Off Label: Yes

sulfasalazine B N 56 reviews 5.0

Generic name: sulfasalazine systemic

Brand names:  Azulfidine, Azulfidine EN-tabs

Drug class: antirheumatics, 5-aminosalicylates

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

meloxicam C N X 50 reviews 5.6

Generic name: meloxicam systemic

Brand name:  Mobic

Drug class: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

golimumab B N 48 reviews 6.7

Generic name: golimumab systemic

Brand names:  Simponi, Simponi Aria

Drug class: TNF alfa inhibitors

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph

abatacept C N 45 reviews 6.2

Generic name: abatacept systemic

Brand name:  Orencia

Drug class: antirheumatics, selective immunosuppressants

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph

Orencia C N 44 reviews 6.2

Generic name: abatacept systemic

Drug class: antirheumatics, selective immunosuppressants

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

prednisone C N 42 reviews 7.8

Generic name: prednisone systemic

Brand name:  Rayos

Drug class: glucocorticoids

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

diclofenac D N X 39 reviews 7.2

Generic name: diclofenac systemic

Brand names:  Voltaren, Cataflam

Drug class: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

Simponi B N 36 reviews 7.0

Generic name: golimumab systemic

Drug class: TNF alfa inhibitors

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

infliximab B N 34 reviews 7.2

Generic name: infliximab systemic

Brand names:  Remicade, Avsola, Inflectra, Ixifi, Renflexis …show all

Drug class: antirheumatics, TNF alfa inhibitors

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph

Remicade B N 31 reviews 7.4

Generic name: infliximab systemic

Drug class: antirheumatics, TNF alfa inhibitors

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

tocilizumab C N 29 reviews 6.5

Generic name: tocilizumab systemic

Brand name:  Actemra

Drug class: interleukin inhibitors

For consumers: dosage, interactions,

For professionals: A-Z Drug Facts, AHFS DI Monograph

Arava X N X 28 reviews 6.6

Generic name: leflunomide systemic

Drug class: antirheumatics, selective immunosuppressants

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

Actemra C N 27 reviews 6.5

Generic name: tocilizumab systemic

Drug class: interleukin inhibitors

For consumers: dosage, interactions, side effects

For professionals: AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information

Topics under Rheumatoid Arthritis

Alternative treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The following products are considered to be alternative treatments or natural remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Their efficacy may not have been scientifically tested to the same degree as the drugs listed in the table above. However there may be historical, cultural or anecdotal evidence linking their use to the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Learn more about Rheumatoid Arthritis

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptom checker

Symptoms and treatments

Drugs.com Health Center

Mayo Clinic Reference

ICD-10 CM Clinical Codes (External)

Legend

Rx Prescription Only
OTC Over the Counter
Rx/OTC Prescription or Over the Counter
Off Label This medication may not be approved by the FDA for the treatment of this condition.
Pregnancy Category
A Adequate and well-controlled studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus in the first trimester of pregnancy (and there is no evidence of risk in later trimesters).
B Animal reproduction studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women.
C Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use in pregnant women despite potential risks.
D There is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience or studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use in pregnant women despite potential risks.
X Studies in animals or humans have demonstrated fetal abnormalities and/or there is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience, and the risks involved in use in pregnant women clearly outweigh potential benefits.
N FDA has not classified the drug.
Controlled Substances Act (CSA) Schedule
N Is not subject to the Controlled Substances Act.
1 Has a high potential for abuse. Has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. There is a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
2 Has a high potential for abuse. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions. Abuse may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
3 Has a potential for abuse less than those in schedules 1 and 2. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.
4 Has a low potential for abuse relative to those in schedule 3. It has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to those in schedule 3.
5 Has a low potential for abuse relative to those in schedule 4. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to those in schedule 4.
Alcohol
X Interacts with Alcohol.

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Further information

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