Rheumatoid arthritis, a debilitating disease that strikes millions worldwide, is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes joint inflammation. For reasons unknown, the body’s immune system attacks tissues in certain joints, which causes extreme pain, swelling, and the eventual deterioration of bone and cartilage. The disorder usually affects people between the ages of 40 and 60, and women are more likely to develop the disease than men. While there is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are treatments that can help relieve symptoms and prevent damage to the body. Read on to find out about medications that can help with this crippling ailment.
Early stages of the disease include fatigue, morning stiffness, redness of joints, low-grade fever, dry mouth, hard lumps under skin on the arms, chest pain when breathing, numbness and swelling of hands and feet, and a decrease in range and motion. As the disorder develops, joints in the hands and feet become tender, swollen and stiff. Sometimes rheumatoid arthritis occurs in the wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, and hips. The Mayo Clinic reports about 40 percent of the people who have rheumatoid arthritis experience symptoms in unlikely places such as the heart, eyes, lungs, bone marrow, and nerve tissue. Since there is no cure for the disease, treatments focus on reducing inflammation, preventing the immune system from attacking tissue, and easing pain.
DMARDs, or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, are long-term medications that protect tissues and joints while slowly reducing pain. Methotrexate, known as Rheumatrex and Trexall, is the most common medication used to treat the disease, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Rheumatrex is available for about $79, with a generic form costing about $23. Biologic DMARDs are different because they target specific areas of the immune system that cause inflammation. These genetically engineered drugs have fewer side effects than regular DMARDs. Adalimumab is a biologic DMARD sold as Humira. Adalimumab is available for around $5,000, and currently, there is no generic form of the drug available.
Corticosteroid medications are steroids that reduce inflammation in tissues that cause pain. Because of dangerous side-effects, such as high blood pressure and ulcers, these drugs are not recommended for long-term use. However, while physicians wait for DMARD medications to take effect, they may prescribe corticosteroids for short-term relief. Decadron, Prednisone, Dexamethasone, and Nasacort are commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The average cost of name-brand Decadron is around $40 with generic versions costing around $8. Prednisone costs about $11 with no-name brands costing about $3. Dexamethasone is available for around $40, with generic forms costing around $8. Nasacort retails for about $260, while the generic form costs about $80.
NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are sometimes necessary for those suffering with rheumatoid arthritis because they reduce pain and inflammation. Aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen are available over the counter and can usually be purchased for less than $10. There are many NSAIDs available, and patients may need to experiment to find the one that works best for them. In some cases, prescription NSAIDs, such as Celebrex, are sometimes prescribed because they are safer for the stomach. Name-brand Celebrex costs around $200, while a generic form will run about $6. NSAIDs can be a blessing as they offer affordable relief from this sometimes agonizing disorder.