Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)

Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) act by altering the underlying disease rather than treating symptoms. They're not painkillers, but they'll reduce pain, swelling and stiffness over a period of weeks or months by slowing down the disease and its effects on the joints. There are two types: conventional DMARDs and biological therapies.

Conventional DMARDs

This group of drugs are slow-acting and can take several weeks to work, so it's important to keep taking them even if they don't seem to have any effect at first. If you don't respond well to one of these drugs, or if you develop any side-effects, then your doctor may try one of the others.

Read more about the following conventional DMARDs:

Biological therapies

Biological therapies (also known as biologics) are newer drugs that have been developed in recent years. They target individual molecules and tend to work more quickly than conventional DMARDs.

Some biological therapies are called anti-TNF drugs. They target a protein called tumour necrosis factor, which increases inflammation when excess amounts are present in the blood or joints. Other biological therapies target different proteins.

Biological therapies are only given to people who have already tried other treatments appropriate to their condition and not responded well to them. Biological therapies are often given in combination with a conventional DMARD such as methotrexate.

Read more about the following biological therapies:

Read more about the following anti-TNF drugs: