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How Effective Is Etanercept for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Etanercept for rheumatoid arthritis appears to be a highly effective treatment for many patients. Clinical trials on this medication alone and in combination therapy show that it can often slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. This can keep patients comfortable longer and may reduce the rate of complications associated with rheumatoid arthritis, like severe joint injury. There are some risks to etanercept therapy, which patients should consider before starting the medication.

This drug is in a class of compounds known as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers. They do not cure rheumatoid arthritis, but they slow the rate of permanent joint damage caused by chronic inflammation. It is an injectable drug and may be given in a doctor's office or at home after instructions from the doctor. Some patients may take it in combination with medications like methotrexate to control their condition more effectively.

Patients taking etanercept for rheumatoid arthritis can notice an improvement after approximately three months of treatment. It is important to give the drug time to work. An immediate improvement after the first injection is unlikely, and slow response does not mean etanercept for rheumatoid arthritis will not be effective in a given patient. Within six months, patients who are going to respond to the medication should experience a noticeable slowing in the progression of the disease.

Doctors may recommend etanercept and other more aggressive drugs when a patient's rheumatoid arthritis does not respond to more conservative treatment. Other measures can include diet, anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and various other options. Patients and doctors balance the need to arrest the condition as quickly as possible to prevent long-term damage with the desire to avoid potential side effects with aggressive drugs. Aggressive medication like etanercept can be highly effective, but can also expose the patient to risks that may outweigh the benefits if a case of rheumatoid arthritis is relatively mild.

The biggest risk of etanercept for rheumatoid arthritis is an allergic reaction or inflammation at the injection site. Some patients develop an increased risk of infections and blood disorders while on the medication. Patients should remain alert to symptoms like bruising, fatigue, and pain, as these may indicate the onset of complications. A doctor can examine the patient to determine if a reaction is occurring, and which measures, if any, should be taken to address it. This may require switching to a different medication, in the case of patients with allergies.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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