Decision Assist

Arthritis medications

Introduction

The purpose of this tool is to help you decide whether arthritis medication is right for you. When making a decision like this, you must balance:

This tool is not a substitute for professional medical care and advice. Work with your doctor to help you make this decision. A second opinion from another doctor may be valuable. Medication always has potential side effects, and you should be fully informed about the risks and benefits of this type of medication. There is usually no exact "right" or "wrong" answer.

Your doctor may make certain recommendations to you. However, the final decision about whether to use this medication rests with you.

What is the medication?

There are different kinds of arthritis. One kind, osteoarthritis, is the most common joint disorder. The disease causes the cushion between bone joints to wear away, leading to pain and stiffness. It can also cause new pieces of bone, called bone spurs, to grow around the joints.

Osteoarthritis

The goals of treatment are to relieve your pain, improve your ability to move the joints, and increase the strength of your joints. Treatment may include heat and cold therapy, weight loss, and exercise. Your doctor may also recommend medication as part of your treatment plan.

The most common medications are pain relievers that reduce pain and swelling. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn, Naprelan, Anaprox). There are over-the-counter and prescription forms of this type of drug.

COX-2 inhibitors are another type of arthritis medicine. These drugs were initially believed to work as well as traditional medicines, but with fewer stomach problems. However, two of them -- Vioxx and Bextra -- were taken off the U.S. market due to their possibly increasing the risk of heart attack. A third drug called Celebrex is still available.

Key points

How much time this decision tool will take

What this tool will provide


Review Date: 9/19/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Previously reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. (5/30/2008)


References:
  • Gregory PJ. Dietary supplements for osteoarthritis. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Jan 15;77(2):177-84.
  • Hunter DJ. In the clinic. Osteoarthritis. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Aug 7;147(3):ITC8-1-ITC8-16. Review.
  • Lane NE. Clinical practice. Osteoarthritis of the hip. N Engl J Med. 2007 Oct 4;357(14):1413-21. Review.
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