Rheumatoid Arthritis

Long term use of drugs for rheumatoid arthritis

Most people we talked to had been taking drugs for their rheumatoid arthritis (RA), in various combinations, for several years. Some had got used to taking regular medication describing it as 'no big deal' and saw it as 'a way of life'.

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Most people were convinced that the benefits of taking medication outweighed the risks. One woman said, 'If it's giving me my life back it's got to be worth it'.

Some people had already suffered the side effects of drugs and so were particularly concerned about their long-term use. One woman felt she was 'between the devil and the deep blue sea'. She knew that steroids had caused problems such as her osteoporosis, but said that if she didn't take drugs she couldn't move. 

People often felt reassured because they were being monitored; they had regular blood tests and urine tests to make sure that the drugs weren't causing long-term complications (see 'Regular monitoring and other diagnostic tests'). But others were keen to reduce the dose of certain drugs or to stop them as soon as possible.

Most people took drugs at regular intervals. Some had to take them once or twice a day, others needed them more often. Some took methotrexate, which is only taken once a week. People sometimes forgot to take their tablets, particularly when on holiday, and said they suffered pain and reduced mobility as a result.

People had developed various methods to help them to remember to take their drugs. Some used special tablet boxes, which are divided and marked for each day of the week. The boxes helped those who found it hard to remember if they had taken their tablets or not. However, one woman said that sometimes her smaller pills got caught and crushed in the mechanism of her tablet box. She then had to work out which one had got crushed.


Last reviewed August 2016.

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