Drug Categories


Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are also known as slow-acting antirheumatic drugs (SAARDs). DMARDs may also be referred to as second line drugs. These drugs generally do not have anything in common other than their ability to slow down the progression rheumatoid arthritis. Most of them were developed for other conditions and accidentally found to be beneficial in treating rheumatic diseases.?

Once used only in later, more severe cases, studies now indicate that these drugs significantly delay the long-term damage and joint deformities associated with inflammatory arthritis. Most rheumatologists regularly start newly diagnosed people on DMARDs right away. It is quite common to be prescribed a “cocktail” of several DMARDs, along with a NSAID or corticosteroid.?

Most DMARDs have the potential for some very serious side effects. For this reason it is very important that you keep all doctor’s appointments and follow the medication instructions given.?


The first drugs used against inflammatory arthritis are usually nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs relieve pain by reducing inflammation, but do not contain steroids. Although they lessen the pain and swelling of inflammatory arthritis, they do nothing to slow the underlying disease process.?

Most older NSAIDs have the potential to harm the gastrointestinal tract. It is important to take them as ordered to lessen the possibility of harmful side effects. The newer COX-2 inhibiting NSAIDs claim to have less incidences of GI problems.?


Oral corticosteroids, such as prednisolone and prednisone work rapidly to control inflammation and pain, and some physicians use them as a first treatment in patients who have severe problems with NSAIDs. This group of drugs can have serious side effects when used long term. They are best used at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time. However, some people may take them at low doses for many years.

Corticosteroids may also be injected, either directly into a troublesome joint or into a muscle for a systemic effect. Joint injections should be limited to about four per year to prevent damage to the joint.

Pain Medications

Usually divided into two groups, narcotic and non-narcotic, pain relievers treat just the pain, not the inflammation or the cause of the problem. Since a person with arthritis is likely to suffer from chronic pain, pain relievers are often prescribed to be taken as needed.?

Narcotic pain relievers are used to treat severe pain. They are all potentially addictive, and used sparingly by some doctors. Recent research has shown however, that people in chronic pain rarely suffer from narcotic addiction. The addiction occurs in those who take the drugs for a “high”. Some doctors seem to be slow in realizing this fact.?

Non-narcotic pain relievers are more commonly used for the pain of arthritis. These drugs are used to treat mild to moderate pain and have no addictive qualities.?

Other drugs

The list of other types of drugs used to treat arthritis is huge. Here are just a few of them:

Antidepressants may be used in inflammatory arthritis. It is very important that we do not panic and fear the doctor thinks we are depressed. They are often used for their pain relieving and sleep inducing properties rather than the antidepressant effect.

Muscle Relaxers
Those with arthritis sometimes use muscle relaxers, joint pain can cause the muscles to stiffen and tense. Often given at bedtime, they can help the body relax for sleep.

Osteoporosis Drugs?
Certain drugs have the ability in increase bone mass and are used in the treatment of osteoporosis. Most of these drugs are fairly new, being on the market just a couple of years.