Treatment with disease-modifying Agents
There are three general classes of drugs commonly used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). NSAIDs and corticosteroids have a short onset of action while DMARDs can take several weeks or months to demonstrate a clinical effect. DMARDs include methotrexate, sulfasalazine, leflunomide (Arava®), etanercept (Enbrel®), infliximab (Remicade®), adalimumab (Humira®), certolizumab pegol (Cimzia®), golimumab (Simponi®), abatacept (Orencia®), rituximab (Rituxan®), tocilizumab (Actemra®), anakinra (Kineret®), antimalarials (e.g. Plaquenil®). Other immunomodulators are occasionally used including azathioprine (Imuran) and cyclosporine. Because cartilage damage and bony erosions frequently occur within the first two years of disease, rheumatologists now move aggressively to a DMARD agent early in the course of the disease, usually as soon as a diagnosis is confirmed.