What types of medications are used to treat arthritis?

Medications are likely to be a part of almost any arthritis treatment plan. The medications available today can, in many cases, ease pain, relieve inflammation, prevent dangerous disease complications, strengthen porous bone, lessen flares and slow, stop or even prevent further joint damage.

The particular disease you have, as well as its symptoms and its severity, will dictate the type of medication your doctor prescribes or recommends. Some types of medications are used to treat a wide variety of diseases, while other treatments are unique for certain diseases. Here are some of the medications that may be a part of your arthritis treatment plan:

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) – The class of drugs called NSAIDs includes one of the oldest and most widely used medications, aspirin, as well as the popular over-the-counter medications naproxen sodium (Aleve), ibuprofen and ketoprofen, which may be taken in higher doses under a doctor’s direction. About a dozen other NSAIDs are available only by prescription, including COX 2 Inhibitors.

    All NSAIDs ease pain and inflammation by blocking the production by the body of chemicals called prostaglandins, which also play a role in numerous other bodily functions.

    One of the biggest factors in determining which NSAID your doctor will prescribe is whether you have had ulcers or are at increased risk of getting them or have a bleeding disorder.
  • Analgesics (Non-NSAIDs) – Non-NSAID analgesic medications are prescribed purely for pain relief and fever – that is, they don’t work against inflammation the way NSAIDs do. The most commonly used and readily available analgesic is acetaminophen. Acetaminophen works to reduce pain but has no other direct effects on joints affected by arthritis.
  • Topical Analgesics – If you find you can’t take oral analgesics or if you have just a few joints or sore muscles that need soothing, you might want to try one of the many analgesic salves, creams, rubs and balms available over the counter. Topical analgesics are often effective for relief of mild to moderate osteoarthritis pain and can be used along with oral analgesics.
  • Corticosteroids – Corticosteroids are potent fighters of inflammation. They can help reduce harmful joint inflammation and control destructive inflammation of the kidneys, blood vessels and other organs. The most-prescribed corticosteroid for arthritis-related diseases is prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone, Prednicen-M, Sterapred), but there are several others, including cortisone (Cortone Acetate), prednisolone (Prelone) and methylprednisolone (Medrol).
  • Other Medications – There are several other types of medications that treat various forms of arthritis such as Disease Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) and Biologic Response Modifiers (BRMs). For more information on these medications, you can order a copy of the Arthritis Foundation Drug Guide by calling (800) 283-7800.

Sourced from:
The Arthritis Foundation’s Guide to Managing Your Arthritis, by Mary Anne Dunkin, copyright ©2001, Arthritis Foundation