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Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Medications (cont.)

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What are the side effects of rheumatoid arthritis medications?

Analgesics

Acetaminophen may cause damage to the liver in excessive doses.

Aspirin has the potential to cause stomach bleeding.

Opioid analgesics may cause drowsiness, confusion, reduced respiratory rate, constipation, and have the potential for addiction.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatories

  • Gastrointestinal irritation with possible bleeding
  • Some may cause drowsiness (piroxicam)
  • Kidney damage

Biologic Agents

  • Irritation at injection site
  • Allergic reactions
  • Increased susceptibility to infection

Corticosteroids (Long-term use)

Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs

Azathioprine (Imuran)

  • Potentially serious blood disorders
  • Increased risk for some cancers

Auranofin (Ridaura)

  • Potentially serious, even fatal, blood disorders
  • Kidney problems
  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea

Chloroquine (Aralen), Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)

  • Vision problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Seizures
  • Musculoskeletal issues, including weakness and lack of coordination

Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)

Cyclosporine (Sandimmune)

  • Increased risk for some cancers
  • Increased risk for serious infections
  • Kidney damage
  • High blood pressure

Leflunomide (Arava)

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Rash
  • Hair loss
  • Liver injury
  • Lung problems including coughing, shortness of breath, lung damage

Methotrexate (Rheumatrex)

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Mouth sores
  • Liver damage with long term use
  • Serious blood problems

Gastrointestinal side effects can be greatly diminished by taking a folic acid supplement.

Minocycline (Minocin)

Mycophenolate (CellCept)

  • Damage to the fetus in pregnant women

Penicillamine (Cuprimine)

  • Kidney damage
  • Serious, even fatal, blood disorders
  • Liver abnormalities
  • Pemphigus
  • Allergic reactions

Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Increased susceptibility to sunburn
  • Orange colored urine and/or skin
  • Possible changes in blood cell count

RA Drugs with the Least Side Effects

Taken at the proper dose, acetaminophen carries the lowest risk for side effects. However, exceeding the recommended dose can result in severe, even fatal, liver damage.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/27/2016


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