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Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)

About This Medicine

Make sure you know about each of the medicines you take. This includes why you take it, how to take it, what you can expect while you're taking it, and any warnings about the medicine.

The information provided here is general. So be sure to read the information that came with your medicine. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

What are some examples?

Here are some examples of DMARDs. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.

Some DMARDs are taken as pills, some are given as shots, and others are injected into a vein (infused).

  • adalimumab (Humira)
  • azathioprine (Zasan, Imuran)
  • etanercept (Enbrel)
  • infliximab (Remicade)
  • leflunomide (Arava)
  • methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall)

This is not a complete list of DMARDs.

Why are DMARDs used?

DMARDs are used for many different conditions. They reduce inflammation, relieve symptoms such as pain, and can help slow some diseases. In some conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, they may prevent joint damage and disability when they are started early.

DMARDs are used to treat conditions such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

How do they work?

DMARDs work in different ways to change how the immune system responds, and this helps slow or stop inflammation. And because inflammation plays a role in many diseases, slowing or stopping it helps with symptoms and may slow how fast a disease gets worse.

What about side effects?

While taking this medicine, some people feel sick to their stomach or get a skin rash. Other side effects include flu-like symptoms and feeling tired.

General information about side effects

All medicines can cause side effects. Many people don't have side effects. And minor side effects sometimes go away after a while.

But sometimes side effects can be a problem or can be serious.

If you're having problems with side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change to a different medicine.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of side effects, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

What are some cautions about DMARDs?

Cautions for DMARDs include the following:

  • Because DMARDs act on the immune system, you may have a higher chance of getting certain infections and certain cancers.

General cautions for all medicines

Allergic reactions.
All medicines can cause a reaction. This can sometimes be an emergency. Before you take any new medicine, tell the doctor or pharmacist about any past allergic reactions you've had.
Drug interactions.
Sometimes one medicine may keep another medicine from working well. Or you may get a side effect you didn't expect. Medicines may also interact with certain foods or drinks, like grapefruit juice and alcohol. Some interactions can be dangerous.
Harm during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, ask your doctor or pharmacist if all the medicines you take are safe.
Other health problems.
Before taking a medicine, be sure your doctor or pharmacist knows about all your health problems. The medicine for one health problem may affect another health problem.

Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. That information will help prevent serious problems.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of warnings, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Credits

Current as of: August 5, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine

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