Two Types of Rheumatoid Arthritis Medications

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Why talk about 2 types of Rheumatoid Arthritis medications?

medication bottles updatedOne of the first blog posts I ever wrote was about Rheumatoid Arthritis medications. I suggest that patients ask doctors about each medication: “How is this supposed to help me?” I wanted to make a clear distinction between medications for disease treatment and medications for relief of symptoms for several reasons.


  • Some patients seemed confused about how specific medications treated their RA.
  • Some doctors seem to emphasize disease treatment and assume that it is sufficient for patients to do well enough to get by.
  • Some doctors seem to emphasize symptom treatment and be very slow to progress toward more aggressive disease treatments.

Why Rheumatoid Arthritis patients need 2 types of medications

What most Rheumatoid Arthritis patients require is a proper combination of both types of medications: disease treatment and symptom relief. Why? Unfortunately Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment is not advanced enough yet that disease treatment is effective enough to be sufficient for most patients. However, emphasis on symptom treatment to the neglect of disease treatment puts the patient at greater risk of increased damage and greater disease progression.

The latter is referred to as the pyramid approach to Rheumatoid Arthritis medications which is still recommended by some reputable sources and used by some RA specialists. With this approach, anti-inflammatories such as NSAIDs or steroids are used before disease treatments (disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs or DMARDs) are offered. To be clear, anti-inflammatories have no affect on disease progression or damage. Sadly many patients have RA damage by the time they are diagnosed.

Patients must be knowledgeable about this reality so they can explore options to 1) fight their Rheumatoid Arthritis as aggressively as they choose to; and 2) find treatments to make their lives as comfortable and functional as possible. Most patients that I have contact with are still looking for the combination that will help them to be the best that they can be.

A good Rheumatoid Arthritis specialist will help patients to examine options and work alongside them to find that best possible arrangement with medications. How doctors can help:

  1. Incorporate patient accounts of functional status in assessments of disease activity.
  2. Investigate current research of the newest treatment approaches.
  3. Inform patients about all available options for both kinds of treatments.
  4. Include patients’ questions, goals, and fears in discussions of treatment options.

Personal note: my quest for effective Rheumatoid Arthritis medication

I haven’t had a lot of luck with Rheumatoid Arthritis medications so far. It seems like about a third of patients are in that same boat. A little over 40 percent of patients seem to get about 50 percent improvement from RA medications, at least for a time. A small percentage of patients get a much better result.

Tomorrow, I turn the page again. I’m going to meet with Dr. Smart Rheum Doc and go through the process of choosing the next thing to try. Hopefully, we can find the magical formula in the next disease treatment. However, if there is not a pot of gold at the end of the next rainbow, I’m determined to persevere to find a way to treat the symptoms to be as comfortable and functional as possible. There are so many things I want to do.

Reminder about tomorrow’s webinar w/ Dr. Rebecca Bader on RA!! She is using some material from RA Warrior & I hope you didn’t miss the rest of good news last week- click here to read about all of it!

Recommended reading:

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011 at 6:00 am and is filed under Treating RA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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