DMARDs: disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs

DMARDs used to only be used for people whose arthritis symptoms couldn't be controlled by NSAIDs alone. However, because joint inflammation can cause irreparable damage early in the course of the disease, giving DMARDs earlier can spare people future joint deformities and disability.

DMARDs include methotrexate, leflunomide (Arava), etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade), adalimumab (Humira), anakinra (Kineret), antimalarials, gold salts, sulfasalazine, d-penicillamine, cyclosporin A, cyclophosphamide and azathioprine.

DMARDs are most commonly used for RA, but some of the drugs in this chart are also used for juvenile RA, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and lupus. Some, such as cyclosphosphamide (Cytoxan) or chlorambucil (Leukeran) are used mainly to treat severe organ disease, such as the kidney disease caused by lupus or the vasculitis sometimes associated with RA.

Although DMARDs play an important role in arthritis treatment, only one - leflunomide (Arava) - was actually developed for RA. The others were borrowed from different areas of medicine. For instance, hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is a malaria drug, methotrexate and chlorambucil (Leukeran) are cancer medications and cyclosporine (Sandimmune, Neoral) originally was developed to keep the body from rejecting transplanted organs.


Lynn Salmon <>{

Last updated: October 23, 2015 Google Facebook Pinterest Twitter Reddit Print