What drugs are for what sypmtoms?
For Joint Pain (polyarthritis):
NSAIDS - nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
ANTIMALARIALS - (eg. Plaquenil). one percent (1%) of patients using this develop retinal problems (retinopathy). Otherwise, this is a very safe drug.
GLUCOCORTICOIDS - (eg. triamcinolone, Aristospn, methylprednisolone or Solumedorl)usually an injection for severe joint pain.
IMMUNOSUPPRESIVE - Corisones (ex. methotrexate, azathioprine[imuran], rheumatrex.
FOR DISCOIDAL LUPUS:
Antimalarials - (see above)
Dapsone - for patients who cannot tolerate antimalrials.
Corticosteroids - used for severe discoid lupus with vasculitis and scalp lesions
IMMUNOSUPPRESIVES - (see above)
THALIDOMIDE - one of the most effective drugs. However, the contraindications (side effects) are very risky, so it is not used very much
Drugs Used For LUPUS
From the Lupus Foundation of America
Several types of drugs are used to treat lupus. The treatment the doctor chooses is based on the patient's individual symptoms and needs.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
For people with joint or chest pain or fever, drugs that decrease inflammation, referred to as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are often used. While some NSAIDs are available over the counter, a doctor's prescription is necessary for others. NSAIDs may be used alone or in combination with other types of drugs to control pain, swelling, and fever. Even though some NSAIDs may be purchased without a prescription, it is important that they be taken under a doctor's direction. Common side effects of NSAIDs, including those available over the counter, can include stomach upset, heartburn, diarrhea, and fluid retention. Some patients with lupus also develop liver and kidney inflammation while taking NSAIDs, making it especially important to stay in close contact with the doctor while taking these medications.
NSAIDs Used To Treat Lupus*
* Brand names included in this publication are provided as examples only and their inclusion does not mean that these products are endorsed by the National Institutes of Health or any other Government agency. Also, if a particular brand name is not mentioned, this does not mean or imply that the product is unsatisfactory.
A new class of anti-inflammatory drugs called COX-2 inhibitors (celecoxib [Celebrex]; rofecoxib [Vioxx]; mobic [Meloxicam]) have all of the same effects as NSAIDs on pain and inflammation but have a much lower risk of significant gastrointestinal side effects. These agents have not been extensively studied in patients with lupus and have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use specifically in lupus. However, they might provide benefits similar to NSAIDs.
Antimalarials are another type of drug commonly used to treat lupus. These drugs were originally used to treat malaria, but doctors have found that they also are useful for lupus. Exactly how antimalarials work in lupus is unclear, but scientists think that they may work by suppressing parts of the immune response. A common antimalarial used to treat lupus is hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil). It may be used alone or in combination with other drugs and generally is used to treat fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and inflammation of the lungs.
Clinical studies have found that continuous treatment with antimalarials may prevent flares from recurring. Side effects of antimalarials can include stomach upset and, extremely rarely, damage to the retina of the eye.
The mainstay of lupus treatment involves the use of corticosteroid hormones, such as prednisone (Deltasone), hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone (Medrol), and dexamethasone (Decadron, Hexadrol). Corticosteroids are related to cortisol, which is a natural anti-inflammatory hormone. They work by rapidly suppressing inflammation. Corticosteroids can be given by mouth, in creams applied to the skin, or by injection. Because they are potent drugs, the doctor will seek the lowest dose with the greatest benefit. Short-term side effects of corticosteroids include swelling, increased appetite, weight gain, and emotional ups and downs. These side effects generally stop when the drug is stopped. It can be dangerous to stop taking corticosteroids suddenly, so it is very important that the doctor and patient work together in changing the corticosteroid dose. Sometimes doctors give very large amounts of corticosteroid by vein over a brief period of time (days) ("bolus" or "pulse" therapy). With this treatment, the typical side effects are less likely and slow withdrawal is unnecessary.
Long-term side effects of corticosteroids can include stretch marks on the skin, excessive hair growth, weakened or damaged bones (osteoporosis and osteonecrosis), high blood pressure, damage to the arteries, high blood sugar, infections, and cataracts. Typically, the higher the dose of prolonged corticosteroids, the more severe the side effects. Also, the longer they are taken, the greater the risk of side effects. Researchers are working to develop alternative strategies to limit or offset the use of corticosteroids. For example, corticosteroids may be used in combination with other, less potent drugs, or the doctor may try to slowly decrease the dose once the disease is under control. People with lupus who are using corticosteroids should talk to their doctors about taking supplemental calcium and vitamin D or other drugs to reduce the risk of osteoporosis (weakened, fragile bones).
In special circumstances, patients may require stronger drugs to combat lupus symptoms. In some patients, methotrexate (Folex, Mexate, Rheumatrex) may be used to help control the disease. Patients who have many body systems affected by the disease may receive intravenous gamma globulin (Gammagard S/D), a blood protein that increases immunity and helps fight infection. Gamma globulin also may be used to control acute bleeding in patients with thrombocytopenia or to prepare a person with lupus for surgery.
For patients whose kidneys or central nervous systems are affected by lupus, a type of drug called an immunosuppressive may be used. Immunosuppressives, such as azathioprine (Imuran) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), restrain the overactive immune system by blocking the production of some immune cells and curbing the action of others. These drugs may be given by mouth or by infusion (dripping the drug into the vein through a small tube). Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, bladder problems, decreased fertility, and increased risk of cancer and infection. The risk for side effects increases with the length of treatment. As with other treatments for lupus, there is a risk of relapse after the immunosuppressives have been stopped.
Working closely with the doctor helps ensure that treatments for lupus are as successful as possible. Because some treatments may cause harmful side effects, it is important to report any new symptoms to the doctor promptly. It is also important not to stop or change treatments without talking to the doctor first.
Because of the nature and cost of the medications used to treat lupus, their potentially serious side effects, and the lack of a cure, many patients seek other ways of treating the disease. Some alternative approaches that have been suggested include special diets, nutritional supplements, fish oils, ointments and creams, chiropractic treatment, and homeopathy.
Although these methods may not be harmful in and of themselves, and they may be associated with symptomatic or psychosocial benefit, no research to date shows that they affect the disease process or prevent organ damage. Some alternative or complementary approaches may help the patient cope or reduce some of the stress associated with living with a chronic illness. If the doctor feels the approach has value and will not be harmful, it can be incorporated into the patient's treatment plan.
Read about what Jennifer uses to keep her immune system healthy. Jen's lupus story
However, it is important not to neglect regular health care or treatment of serious symptoms. An open dialogue between the patient and the physician about the relative values of complementary and alternative and more traditional therapy is essential in permitting the patient to make an informed choice about treatment options.