The Reasons for Using Methotrexate as a First-Line for RA Treatment

If you are experiencing musculoskeletal pains that last a few days, and don’t feel severe or disabling, it makes sense to wait and see if the problem resolves on its own. But if the pain in your joints, bones, or muscles is severe or persists for more than a couple of days, you should make an appointment to see your Temecula rheumatologist for an RA diagnosis.

Some musculoskeletal disorders respond best when treatment is administered in the early stages of the conditions. Following an RA diagnosis, your Temecula rheumatologist will likely get you started on methotrexate or another disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD). Methotrexate is best administered in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis as it inhibits disease progression.

Here are 10 other vital things you should know before starting your methotrexate treatment:

1. Methotrexate is the most common DMARD for rheumatoid arthritis treatment
Methotrexate is the most commonly prescribed drug for treating inflammatory forms of arthritis, including RA, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. It has become one of the mainstays for RA treatment because it reduces pain and swelling, and also slows down disease progression and joint damage over time.

2. Methotrexate has been used for treating RA for over three decades
Researchers first developed methotrexate in the 1940s to treat cancer. But it was not until 1985 when a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the drug could effectively relieve swelling, pain, and other RA symptoms, and also slow disease progression by interfering with the production and maintenance of DNA. Three years later, it was approved by the FDA for treating rheumatoid arthritis, and then quickly became the preferred treatment for most inflammatory forms of arthritis.

3. Methotrexate is extremely safe and effective
Numerous studies have shown that methotrexate is very safe and highly effective for treating most forms of inflammatory arthritis. In fact, most Temecula rheumatologists recommend it as the first-line of therapy. Moreover, about 90 percent of RA patients use methotrexate at some point of their treatment to prevent disability by slowing disease progression and delaying joint destruction.

4. Combination therapy involving methotrexate is highly effective
Methotrexate is administered weekly by mouth or as a shot (injection), with most patients starting with a dose of 7.7 to 10 mg or 3 to 4 pills. Depending on its effectiveness, your Temecula rheumatologist may either raise the dosage to 20-25 mg per week (or more if you can tolerate it), or use it in combination with other drugs to reduce the risk of adverse effects. Studies suggest that combination therapy can be more effective than methotrexate (or another DMARD) alone.

5. Many people don’t feel methotrexate side effects
Any side effects are minor and negligible considering the benefits of the treatment. They should also go away with time as you take your medication. But if they don’t, you can discuss with your rheumatologist about reducing the dosage or changing the medicine.

Alternative RA Treatments
Many RA patients can tolerate methotrexate. It offers fairly fast relief of many symptoms. But if it is not effective, your Temecula rheumatologist can recommend another DMARD that you take along with methotrexate, as combination therapy. For instance, you can combine methotrexate with a biologic medicine or leflunomide.