Different medications are used to combat the inflammation that characterizes rheumatoid arthritis, most notably disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), biologics and corticosteroids. It’s important for patients to understand the mechanisms of action of these medications and the risks associated with them.
DMARDs work by suppressing the body’s immune system, thereby reducing inflammation in the joints. They can take some weeks to kick in and come with risks of kidney infection and liver damage.
Like DMARDs, biologics suppress the immune system, only they do so in a more targeted fashion, honing in on certain parts of the immune system. Their risks include an increased susceptibility to infection and bone loss.
Finally, corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatories that are either injected into affected joints or taken orally to shut down inflammation. Like biologics, these medications may increase susceptibility to infection and quicken bone loss.
In the world of prescription medication, catch-22s abound. You can help save your joints by putting other aspects of your health, such as bone density, in jeopardy. Exciting new research suggests a new class of medication that activates the body’s own anti-inflammatory mechanisms that may serve a protective rather than destructive role to bone health.
Researchers looked for two primary things: a correlation between bone loss and joint damage on the one hand, and the effect of a class of medication called DTrp8-ɣMSH (DTrp) on both. In mice with induced arthritis, the researchers found a correlation between the severity of joint inflammation and periodontitis, or bone loss in the tooth socket. Next, they tested the effects of DTrp against those of other treatment methods, including dexamethasone (a corticosteroid) and calcitonin (a natural bone-building hormone).
The corticosteroid reduced joint damage but increased severity of periodontitis; calcitonin built back bone but failed to reduce arthritic damage; DTrp alone improved both outcome measures.
See more on the study at www.sciencedaily.com.
Researchers believe that, by activating the body’s own anti-inflammatory mechanisms, DTrp drugs offer great promise for arthritis management with few side effects. Further research will be required to validate the effectiveness and safety of these drugs, but hopefully in the near future a safe option will be available to rheumatoid arthritis patients.