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What is a DMARD?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A disease-modifying antirheumatic drug or DMARD is a drug which can be used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to slow the progression of the disease. A number of drugs are considered DMARDs, and they can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the specifics of a patient's situation and a doctor's usual approach to the treatment of RA. These drugs cannot cure rheumatoid arthritis, but they can keep patients more comfortable, and prolong the time in which a patient enjoys full functionality.

In addition to being used in the treatment of RA, DMARDs can also be employed in the treatment of a number of autoimmune conditions. These drugs often have a suppressive effect on the immune system which is designed to prevent inflammation of the joints, thereby reducing joint damage. The prevention of inflammation preserves joint function and keeps joints healthier. This reduces pain and stiffness for the patient, and can help the patient avoid complications of RA which tend to appear without DMARD treatment.

Some practitioners recommend starting treatment with a DMARD as soon as RA is diagnosed, so that the drug will be most effective. Early treatment with a DMARD prevents flareups and inflammation from the start, rather than treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs, which addresses the inflammation but not the underlying cause. Other practitioners prefer to wait to prescribe DMARDs until they see how a patient's case is presenting, and whether or not aggressive treatment will be necessary.

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These drugs can be used alone or in combination therapy with anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications to manage RA. In some cases, multiple DMARDs may be used together to attack a patient's issue from multiple angles. Patients may also need to periodically adjust their medications and dosages over time as their conditions change. For this reason, regular medical appointments are needed for a patient on a DMARD, to ensure that the drug is still working effectively and to catch the early signs of drug interactions, complications, and other issues which may emerge over time.

There are a number of DMARDs on the market, including both brand name and generic drugs. Each drug works slightly differently and every body is different, which means that patients may need to take several drugs to find one which works for them, or they may find that they need to adjust the dosage substantially in order for the drug to be effective. This can take patience, but the long-term outcome can be very beneficial for an RA patient.

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