DMARDs-What are they?
Disease Modifying Anti
Rheumatic Drugs, what a mouthful! DMARD is much easier to say! What are
they and what do they do? Good question but not easy to answer, however
I’ll give it my best shot.
This group of medications known as DMARDs is actually many different
types of drugs. They all have one thing in common, the ability to slow
down the disease process in inflammatory arthritis. Just how they
accomplish that task varies with each drug and is some cases, no one
Many DMARDs work by suppressing an over active immune system, which is
believed to be at the root of most cases of inflammatory arthritis. Two
examples of this type of drug are: methotrexate and Imuran. Neither was
designed with arthritis in mind, but both have been proven to be quite
beneficial to those with rheumatic diseases.
Others work by targeting a specific component of inflammation. Examples
of this type include: Enbrel and Remicade, both inhibit the tumor
necrosis factor, a component of inflammation. Enbrel is one of the few
DMARDS created specifically for rheuamtic diseases. Most others were
developed for other conditions, but over time were found to be effective
Many others work by ways that are unknown. Plaquenil is a good example.
It is an effective DMARD for many, but no one knows exactly how or why
it works on inflammatory arthritis. To most of us, the hows and whys are
not that important if the medication does its job without intolerable
side effects. We’ll take what we can get, as long as it works!
As you begin to research DMARD options you will find that many have the
potential for serious side effects. You must keep in mind that they list
all possible reactions. These side effects don’t necessarily happen to
all people taking them or even the majority of people taking them. Most
people can tolerate most DMARDs without major side effects.
Frequent blood work is the norm when taking many DMARDs. This allows the
doctor to monitor the impact these drugs may have on the internal
organs. Many of the adverse reactions can be reversed if caught early.
For this reason it is imperative that you keep all appointments and
follow any instructions given.
It is extremely important that you are aware of all the possible side
effects before you begin treatment. You need to carefully weigh the
known risks of the treatment versus the possible benefit. Only then can
you make an educated, knowledgeable decision.