Drugs & Medications To Treat Arthritis

Arthritis The goal of drugs and medications used for treating arthritis is to reduce pain and inflammation and improve mobility of the affected joints.

While the pain relief medications used as first line treatment for all types of arthritis heals the symptoms of arthritis, the second line drugs help to treat the underlying cause of arthritis.

Drugs And Medications To Treat Arthritis


Analgesics are used for reducing the arthritis pain. These medications are available over-the-counter or with a prescription. Common over-the-counter analgesics include aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen. Prescription analgesics such as propoxyphene, oxycodone and codeine are recommended for treating moderate to severe chronic pain that do not respond to standard analgesics.

The stronger medicines, although effective in reducing severe chronic arthritis pain, carry a risk of addiction. Drowsiness, constipation and nausea are common side effects of codeine and other similar drugs.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are taken for alleviating pain as well as inflammation in the arthritis-ridden joints. Aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, nabumetone, indomethacin and piroxicam are some examples of common NSAIDs used as first line drugs in arthritis treatment.

The milder and safer NSAIDs are available over-the-counter, whereas the stronger ones are available only by prescription. Although, NSAIDs are usually safe when taken in recommended doses for a short period, long-term use of these drugs increases the risk of developing peptic ulcers, bleeding problems, tinnitus, diarrhea and kidney and liver disorders.


Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents used for treating severe arthritis flare-ups. To prevent side effects of corticosteroid drugs, small doses of the medication is used for treating arthritis.

Biologic Disease-Modifying Anti-rheumatic drugs

The first line drugs can only alleviate the symptoms of arthritis, but they cannot prevent joint destruction or repair the damaged tissues. In the case of rheumatic arthritis, arresting progression of the destructive arthritis is the objective of the second line medications.

how to treat arthritis

The Biologic Disease-Modifying Anti-rheumatic drugs, also known as Biological Response Modifiers, include etanercept, infliximab, adalimumab, abatacept and anakinra.

These drugs prevent rheumatic arthritis flare-ups by modifying the immune system. Fever, chills, weakness, muscle ache, nausea, diarrhea and loss of appetite are common side effects of Biologic Response Modifiers. These side effects subside naturally after the treatment ends.


Hydroxychloroquinine is another popular second line anti-rheumatic drug prescribed for arresting progression of rheumatic arthritis and preventing joint deformities. It can be used as a long-term treatment for rheumatic arthritis. Muscle weakness, diarrhea, vision changes and skin rashes are common side effects of the drug.


Salfasalazine drugs are sometimes combined with NSAIDs for treating rheumatic arthritis. However, this drug is not recommended for rheumatic arthritis patients allergic to sulfur.

Gold Salts

Oral and injectable gold are traditionally used for treating rheumatic arthritis. However, long-term treatment with gold salts can damage the kidneys and bone marrow.

Estrogen Pills

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis in elderly women, can be treated with estrogen pills. The estrogen replacement therapy prevents loss in bone density following estrogen deficiency after menopause. However, estrogen pills are recommended only for a short period. Long-term use increases risk of certain cancers and stroke.