Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)

DMARDs are used to treat inflammatory forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

Many DMARDs act on the immune system to cause ‘immunosuppression’. This reduces the activity of the immune system which is attacking and damaging healthy joints. This can not only relieve symptoms but also reduce the risk of long-term damage to your joints.

DMARDs may be used on their own or combined with other DMARDs or medicines to gain the best control of your arthritis.

There is also a specific group of DMARDs available, known as ‘biological DMARDs’. These block certain substances in the blood and joints that cause inflammation. This reduces inflammation and halts joint damage.

Biological DMARDs can only be used if other DMARDs have not worked. DMARDs and biological DMARDs are usually only prescribed by specialists. Regular blood tests are usually necessary to test the effectiveness of these medicines and to check for any unwanted side effects.  For more information on biological DMARDs see Things to consider when taking a biologic.

Use our medication search to find out more information about specific DMARDs or biological DMARDs that have been prescribed for you.

Important medicine tips

  • Understand why you are taking the medicine and what the possible side effects are. Ask your pharmacist for the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) leaflet for your medicine.
  • Always read all medicine labels and take your medicines as directed. If you have any questions check with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Keep a personal record of all your medicines with you, including doses and allergies. This can be useful when you are talking to your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medicines, including natural medicines, as some medicines cause problems if taken together.
  • Do not share your medicines with friends or relatives – the medicines you are taking may be harmful to them.

Useful resources

Video: Living with methotrexate 
(developed by NPS MedicineWise with input from Arthritis Australia as part of the Targeted Therapies Alliance)

Hear Suzanne talk about her treatment journey and the impact methotrexate has had on her rheumatoid arthritis.

 

Your roadmap for rheumatoid arthritis
(developed by NPS MedicineWise with input from Arthritis Australia as part of the Targeted Therapies Alliance)

This roadmap helps you navigate life with rheumatoid arthritis, from diagnosis to finding treatment that works for you.

 

Methotrexate action plan
(developed by NPS MedicineWise with input from Arthritis Australia as part of the Targeted Therapies Alliance)

This action plan can help you discuss methotrexate with your rheumatologist and plan the best way to take your medicine.

 

Patient decision aid: My rheumatoid arthritis is under control – what should I do about my medicine? 
(developed by NPS MedicineWise with input from Arthritis Australia as part of the Targeted Therapies Alliance)

Use this decision aid with your rheumatologist to help you feel more informed and clearer about what matters most when making your decision about your medicine.

 

Fact sheet: My rheumatoid arthritis is well controlled with a biological or targeted medicine: can I take less medicine? 
(developed by NPS MedicineWise with input from Arthritis Australia as part of the Targeted Therapies Alliance)

Find out more about why reducing the amount of biological or targeted medicine you take might be possible, the potential benefits and harms, and things to discuss with your rheumatologist before making your decision.

 

CONTACT YOUR LOCAL ARTHRITIS OFFICE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ARTHRITIS AND SUPPORT SERVICES.