Worried About the Side Effects of Your RA Drug?

A Patient's Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug Side Effects

All Drugs Can Have Side Effects. 
Here’s What Doctors Want You To Know.

We get it: Side effects are scary. Sometimes called adverse events, side effects are anything that's unwanted or unexpected that happens to someone after they take a medication.

Drug manufacturers are required to inform patients about all the possible risks that are associated with a drug — including those that happen rarely. That's why medication package inserts and drug advertisements often contain a lengthy list of things that might go wrong.

About CreakyJoints

This Patient Guide to Understanding RA Drug Side Effects was brought to you by CreakyJoints and made possible by a grant from Sanofi Genzyme.

CreakyJoints is a digital community for millions of arthritis patients and caregivers worldwide who seek education, support, advocacy, and patient-centered research. We represent patients through our popular social media channels, our website 
CreakyJoints.org, and the 50-State Network, which includes nearly 1,500 trained volunteer patient, caregiver and healthcare activists.

As part of the Global Healthy Living Foundation, CreakyJoints also has a patient-reported outcomes registry called ArthritisPower® with nearly 25,000 consented arthritis patients who track their disease while volunteering to participate in longitudinal and observational research. CreakyJoints also publishes the popular 
“Raising the Voice of Patients” series, which are downloadable patient-centered navigational tools for managing chronic illness. For more information and to become a member (for free), visit CreakyJoints.org. To participate in our patient-centered research program, visit ArthritisPower.org.

Copyright © 1999 - 2019 CreakyJoints. All rights reserved. Part of the Global Healthy Living Foundation.

LEARN MORE ABOUT RA DRUG SIDE EFFECTS

Not at all. Drug manufacturers are required to tell you about all those potential side effects, but there's a less than 10 percent chance that an individual patient will experience a side effect of any FDA-approved drug, says Kathryn Dao, MD, associate director of clinical rheumatology at Baylor Research Institute in Dallas, Texas. The chance that you'll experience a serious side effect — such as an infection that requires being hospitalized — is even lower: less than 5 percent.

My medication came with an insert that includes a long list of side effects. Am I guaranteed to have one or more of them?

There are many different medications to treat rheumatoid arthritis and prevent disease progression. It’s important to understand the possible side effects. Download our RA drug side effects chart to learn about the common and serious side effects by various drug classes.

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. CreakyJoints.org is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

"The risk of a having a serious side effect is less than 5 percent. The risk of your disease progressing without treatment is about 100 percent. If I were a gambler, I'd put my money on being treated in order to prevent the devastating consequences of the disease."

Kevin Winthrop, MD, a professor of infectious diseases and public health 
at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland

But choosing not to take medication for RA because of its potential side effects is incredibly dangerous.

You need to ask yourself: What are the side effects of not treating my disease? Long-term inflammation can permanently damage your joints and raise your risk of life-threatening conditions, such as heart and lung disease.

“Patients need to remember that they have choices — lots of them. Usually we discuss taking this drug versus that one. It's not this one versus nothing.”

Kathryn Dao, MD, associate director of clinical rheumatology
 at Baylor Research Institute in Dallas, Texas

Don’t Let Side Effects Scare You. 

Here’s What to Do

Side effects aren't always preventable, but oftentimes doctors and patients can work together to minimize them.

Talking to your doctor about a medication’s potential risks and benefits — and how those fit in to your treatment goals and preferences — is part of shared decision-making, which is an important part of the doctor-patient relationship in rheumatology. You need to talk to your doctor about your health history, lifestyle, other medications you take, and other diseases you have in order to better understand which side effects are more likely to be an issue for you.

Here are 10 key questions to ask your doctor:

Still Worried? 

Your Biggest Questions, Answered

Is there anything I can do to lower my risk further?

Yes. It starts by picking the right drug, which means working with your doctor to choose the option that you both think will work best for your RA and be safest given any other conditions and risk factors you might have, says Kevin Winthrop, MD, a professor of infectious diseases and public health at Oregon Health & Science University. Also key: If you take methotrexate, as many RA patients do, pairing it with a folic acid supplement can help counter many of its side effects, says Dr. Dao.

What if I'm especially concerned about a specific side effect?

Tell your doctor. There are many RA treatments to choose from. Each drug has a different side effect profile. Tell your doctor what's on your mind and they can help you choose a medication that's less likely to cause the problem you're worried about, says Dr. Withrop.

READ THE TOP QUESTIONS PATIENTS ASK ABOUT SIDE EFFECTS

Learn More About RA Treatments

DOWNLOAD THE RA DRUGS SIDE EFFECTS CHART AND CHECKLISTDOWNLOAD THIS CHECKLIST FOR YOUR NEXT APPOINTMENT

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. CreakyJoints.org is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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How might this medication help me?
Does this drug interact with any other medication or supplement I take?
What are the most common side effects of this drug?
Is this drug associated with any serious side effects?
How likely is it that I will experience any of these side effects?
Can I do anything to reduce the chance of experiencing a side effect?
If I'm not comfortable with the possible side effects of this drug, what are my options?
How long has this drug been on the market?
If I start this drug and experience side effects, how quickly can I change course?
What should I do if I experience a side effect?

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