New Drugs-and Combos-Work for RA

Using a combination of biologic and non-biologic medications may seem complicated, but the benefits can be worth the trouble.

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Using a combination of drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not new, but there are new RA drugs, new combinations of drugs, and new guidelines for using these medications. "Using two or more drugs has resulted in greater improvement, attaining disease control more quickly and limiting damage to joints," says Arthritis Advisor associate editor Chad Deal, MD, a Cleveland Clinic physician who specializes in rheumatologic and immunologic diseases. The three categories of drugs that have traditionally been used to treat RA are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen), corticosteroids/steroids (cortisone and prednisone), and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs such as methotrexate). Now theres a newer group of drugs called biologic response modifiers, or biologics (you might see such terms as "TNF blockers" or "biologic DMARDs" when referring to biologics). They include etanercept (Enbrel), adalimumab (Humira), and infliximab (Remicade), anakinra (Kineret), abatacept (Orencia), and rituximab (Rituxan).
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