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Why is methotrexate a cornerstone treatment for rheumatoid arthritis?

Methotrexate was actually developed in the 1940s as a cancer treatment, but years later it showed promise as an RA treatment. Today, it’s the foundational therapy in RA, and it’s often the first drug patients are prescribed after they are diagnosed. As many as 90% of all RA patients will take methotrexate at some point. Interestingly enough, it is still used to treat many forms of cancer, but at much higher doses than what is prescribed for RA.

There are many reasons why methotrexate makes sense for RA:
  • It reduces the symptoms of RA (pain, swelling, redness)
  • It’s a DMARD-a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug-which means it slows the progression of the disease and associated joint damage
  • It is a flexible therapy and can be used alone or combined with other types of medications, including biologic therapies

The combination of effectiveness and safety profile makes methotrexate a therapy many patients can stay on for years.

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