How Do Other DMARDs Work?

Reviewed on 12/27/2021

How do other DMARDs work?

Other disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are medications that are not categorized into any of the specific classes of DMARDs. Each of the other DMARDs works in unique ways and are used in the prevention and treatment of malaria, autoimmune inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and ulcerative colitis, and certain blood cancers.

The medications that are grouped under other DMARDs include:

Hydroxychloroquine sulfate (HCQ):

Hydroxychloroquine sulfate is a weak base, a chemical compound that increases pH and neutralizes the acid. The precise mechanism of HCQ is not known, but it is believed to accumulate and raise the pH within the cells of Plasmodium, the malarial parasite, and prevent its ability to draw its nutrition from red blood cells and grow.

In inflammatory conditions, HCQ is thought to interfere with antigen processing by immune cells and activation of killer T-cells, which results in downregulation of inflammation. HCQ was initially granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for COVID-19, but the FDA has since revoked it based on emerging data that HCQ is unlikely to be effective for COVID.


Leflunomide is an immunomodulatory drug that reduces inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis by preventing the expansion of activated and autoimmune lymphocytes. Leflunomide inhibits the synthesis of pyrimidine nucleotide, a chemical compound essential for DNA and RNA synthesis in the lymphocytes that are activated during inflammation.


Rituximab is a lab-manufactured humanized monoclonal antibody used in the treatment of certain types of blood cancers and autoimmune diseases that involve lymphocytes (B-cells). B-cells are part of the acquired immune system and produce antibodies, secrete inflammatory proteins (cytokines), and present antigens that activate inflammation.

B-cells grow uncontrolled in lymphomas, and in autoimmune diseases produce autoantibodies that attack the body’s cells. Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody that induces the immune system to destroy the aberrant B-cells. Rituximab binds to CD-20, an antigen expressed in B-cell membranes, and marks the B-cells for destruction by killer T-cells.


Sulfasalazine is a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases. Sulfasalazine is an inactive compound (prodrug) that is broken up into its active components sulfapyridine and 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) by bacterial enzymes in the colon.

Sulfasalazine and its metabolites are believed to have antibacterial properties and also work by suppressing the release of many inflammatory proteins (cytokines). Sulfapyridine is absorbed systemically and is primarily beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis, while 5-ASA has local effects in the colon, useful for inflammatory bowel diseases.


What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)? Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis See Slideshow

What are the uses of other DMARDs?

Other DMARDs may be administered as oral tablets or as intravenous (IV) infusions. The uses of other DMARDs include the following:

Hydroxychloroquine sulfate


  • Malaria prevention and treatment
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune inflammatory disorder that affects joints
  • Chronic discoid and systemic lupus erythematosus, types of autoimmune diseases that affect multiple organs including skin, joints, brain, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels




  • Rheumatoid arthritis



Orphan designation




  • Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease

What are side effects of other DMARDs?

Side effects of other DMARDs vary with each type of drug. A few of the most common side effects include:

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.

What are names of some of the other DMARDS?

Generic and brand names of some of the other DMARDs include:


The term arthritis refers to stiffness in the joints. See Answer

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