Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that affects about 1.5% of the population in North America. Though the percentage is relatively small, when you’re the one who’s suffering, all you want is relief.
Every form of arthritis — including RA, osteoarthritis, and psoriatic arthritis — may improve with lifestyle changes. Eating a noninflammatory diet filled with fresh vegetables and fruits may help ease your pain (and help you lose the extra weight that stresses your joints).
Exercising every day keeps your joints lubricated and the muscles that support them strong and flexible.
But with RA, no matter how healthy your lifestyle, you may still experience crippling pain in your joints. Unlike osteoarthritis, which is basically a wear-and-tear plus lifestyle disease, RA is a disorder of your immune system.
For reasons unknown, if you have RA, your body attacks the healthy tissues in your joints as if they were pathogens. The attack sets up an inflammatory cascade that results in pain, stiffness, and debilitation.
At the Rheumatology Center of New Jersey, our expert rheumatologists offer a number of cutting-edge therapies that help control the pain and discomfort of RA.
Depending on your individual needs, we may recommend injections or infusions of medications that turn down inflammation and calm your immune system to keep you pain-free for weeks to months.
With regular infusions, you may be able to wean yourself off of oral painkillers or even discontinue them completely. Below are the RA medications we have available for long-lasting injections and infusions.
We use syringes to administer the injections in our office or provide them for use in the comfort of your home. Pain-free infusions are delivered by intravenous (IV) lines and may take an hour or more to administer.
All of the following drugs give you long-lasting pain relief. They also stop or slow the disease process that destroys your joints.
Your insurance plan may cover or partially cover infusions and injections for RA. Some drug companies also offer relief programs if you have trouble covering the cost of the medication.
Remicade® is an IV biologic. Biologics are a class of drugs that are derived from living things. Unlike other categories of medication, which usually affect your entire body, biologics are directed at a specific target.
Remicade belongs to a class of biologics known as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha blockers. We use Remicade in combination with methotrexate. You receive three starter doses at weeks 0, 2, and 6. You then receive maintenance infusions every eight weeks.
Orencia® is another biologic drug. It can be delivered by IV infusion or with an at-home injection device. You may require a loading dose before moving to maintenance doses. You use the at-home injection pens once a week.
Actemra® is an interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor antagonist. Actemra can be delivered by IV infusion or administered at home with an injection pen. We usually recommend Actemra after you’ve tried and failed to find relief with a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD).
Simponi Aria® is a biologic that we use in conjunction with methotrexate and deliver by IV infusion. You have a second infusion four weeks after your first, then switch to an eight-week or more maintenance schedule.
Rituxan® is an IV biologic that we use with methotrexate. Each infusion takes about 4-6 hours, including setup time, but you only need a maintenance dose 2-5 times a year. We may recommend Rituxan if you tried and didn’t get sufficient relief from a TNF blocker.
Cimzia® is a biologic that blocks TNF and prevents further joint damage. We inject this medication subcutaneously, but you can self-administer your maintenance doses. Cimzia may work for you even if you tried another TNF blocker before without success.
With so many options available, you may wonder how to choose the best IV or injectable medication for your RA. Your best choice is based on your current level of pain, medication history, and physical examination with imaging studies.
To find out how to get long-term relief from RA pain and stop your disease from progressing with injections and infusions, contact your nearest Rheumatology Center of New Jersey office today. We have locations in Somerville, Flemington, and Monroe, New Jersey.