Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis Medications (cont.)
Mary L Windle, PharmD
Kristine M Lohr, MD
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Arthur Weinstein, MD
IN THIS ARTICLE
Drugs in this class include betamethasone (Celestone Soluspan), cortisone (Cortone), dexamethasone (Decadron), methylprednisolone (SoluMedrol, DepoMedrol), prednisolone (Delta-Cortef), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), and triamcinolone (Aristocort).
How corticosteroids work: These drugs decrease swelling and inflammation by suppressing immune response.
Who should not use these medications: People with the following conditions should not use corticosteroids:
Use: Corticosteroids can be taken in various ways (oral, injection, intravenous, intramuscular, intra-articular). The goal is to use the smallest dose that will control symptoms. The length of treatment should be as short as possible in order to decrease the risk of developing side effects. When taken orally, take with food to decrease stomach upset.
Drug or food interactions: Many drug interactions are possible; therefore, consult with a doctor or pharmacist before taking new prescription or over-the-counter medications. Aspirin, NSAIDs, such as Advil or Aleve, or other drugs associated with stomach ulcers may increase the risk of developing stomach ulcers. Corticosteroids may decrease potassium levels, and must be used with caution with other drugs that decrease potassium levels (for example, diuretics (Lasix]).
Side effects: Ideally, corticosteroids are used for only a short time in order to bring sudden flares in symptoms under control. Long-term use is associated with serious side effects, such as osteoporosis, glaucoma, cataracts, mental changes, abnormal blood glucose, or arrested bone growth in children before puberty. After prolonged use, the corticosteroid dose must be gradually decreased over weeks to months to avoid corticosteroid withdrawal syndrome.
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