We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are the Different Types of Rheumatoid Arthritis Medication?

By Deborah Walker
Updated Feb 27, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful and incurable condition in which the body's immune system attacks the joints and sometimes organs. There are four general types of rheumatoid arthritis medication: analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), glucocorticoids, and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These rheumatoid arthritis medications are often prescribed together to provide the patient with maximum relief. Each type of medication has its own side effects, some of which are quite serious.

Analgesics are used to decrease mild-to-moderate levels pain and are available over-the-counter and with a doctor's prescription. Acetaminophen, marketed as Tylenol®, may be purchased without a prescription. Side effects are uncommon, but taking too much of this drug may cause liver damage. Prescription analgesics include tramadol and oxycodone. Side effects may include dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and increased sweating.

NSAIDs are used to reduce swelling and pain. They are available over-the-counter or with a doctor's prescription. Ibuprofen, marketed as Advil® and Motrin®, can be purchased without a prescription. Side effects may include abdominal cramps, dizziness, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, ulcers, and an increased risk of blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke. Celecoxib and diclofenac sodium, marketed as Celebrex® and Voltaren®, respectively, require a prescription. Diclofenac sodium's side effects are essentially the same as those that may be seen when taking over-the-counter rheumatoid arthritis medication; celecoxib's side effects may include a serious skin reaction, indigestion, diarrhea, or stomach pain.

Glucocorticoids are a type of steroid that reduces inflammation and blocks some immune responses. This category of rheumatoid arthritis medication is meant to decrease pain and slow, or even stop, damage to the joints and is available only with a prescription. They can be given as an injection or in pill form. Betamethasone, sold as Celestone®, and prednisone, sold as Deltasone®, should only be taken for short periods because both of them have extensive side effects. These drugs may cause bruising, cataracts, elevated cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure mood swings, weakness, osteoporosis, infections, and increased appetite.

DMARDs reduce inflammation and damage to the joints by disrupting immune cell production. These medications are usually started within three months of receiving the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and may weaken the immune system, thus making users more susceptible to infections. It may take up to six months after beginning DMARDs before patients see any improvement in their condition. There are two classes of DMARDs: biological and oral.

Biologic DMARDs are administered via injection and can be expensive. Abatacept, sold as Orencia®, etanercept, marketed as Enbrel®, infliximab, sold as Remicade®, and rituximab, available under the name of Rituxan®, are all biological DMARDs. They may be used along with NSAIDs or glucocorticoids. Side effects may include chest pain, abdominal pain, headache, cough, or redness and pain at the injection site. The long-term effect of this class of rheumatoid arthritis medication is unknown.

Oral DMARDs are obtained with a prescription. They are provided in pill form. Cyclosporin, trade name Sandimmune®, methotrexate, sold as Rheumatrex®, and auranofin, marketed as Ridaura®, are all oral DMARDs. Potential side effects may include low blood counts, a metallic taste in the mouth, skin rash, high blood pressure, headache, kidney problems, chills, fever, liver problems, and light sensitivity.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.