Understand RA biologic treatment options.

Learn about the different prescription medicines available, including Roche medicines.

RA biologic
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Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers stroll a New Zealand beach

Rheumatoid Arthritis Medication

Rheumatoid Arthritis Medication-

There are a number of different medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The type of treatment you receive will depend on how far your disease has progressed, and how well your RA responds to the different medications. Medications may be given to you as a tablet, an injection or an infusion. Below is a list of the common medications used to treat RA:


Analgesics are also known as ‘painkillers’. Analgesics provide pain relief. They are usually taken as pills. Common analgesics are paracetemol and aspirin.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs treat pain and inflammation. They are used only to relieve symptoms and do not treat the cause of RA. They are usually taken as pills. Common NSAIDs are ibuprofen, diclofenac, and naproxen.


Steroids help reduce inflammation. Steroids can reduce the amount of joint damage caused by RA, but this effect is small. Steroids may be injected directly into a joint, or be taken as pills. Prednisone is a common steroid used to treat RA.

Disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)

DMARDs reduce inflammation and can prevent joint damage. They do this by working on the immune system. DMARDs are commonly used in combination with other medications such as NSAIDs. DMARDs can be taken both as pills and by injection. Common DMARDs include methotrexate.

Biologic DMARDs

Biologic DMARDs are a type of DMARD produced from living cells. They work on the immune system to limit inflammation and reduce the signs and symptoms of RA. There are two main types of biologics. One targets white blood cells and the other targets cytokines. Each biologic DMARD works to keep the immune system from attacking the body.

Additional Resources +

Self Assessment Tool. Use our interactive Self Assessment Tool to track joint tenderness and swelling, pain and fatigue over time. You can then see how well your treatment is working for you. You can also send your results directly to your nurse specialist.

Appointment Checklist. Good communication with your doctor can improve your health care. All questions are powerful and help build understanding. The more questions you ask, the more you will know your RA and the more control you will have over it. Click here to read and download a printable question checklist that you can take with you to your appointment.

Questions to Ask Your Medical Team. Going to see your doctor or nurse can be a little scary, especially if you are worried they might not ‘get’ what you’ve been going through. Use some of the questions below to help get your point across. You can also send your nurse the results of your Self Assessment Tool ahead of time, so they can see what’s been happening for you. Don’t be afraid to ask general questions about RA too, your medical team is there to help.

  • How does RA affect my body?
  • What will happen to my joints over time?
  • What will my quality of life be?
  • What sort of advice do you have for me on how to manage:
    • My pain
    • My fatigue
    • Swelling
    • My lifestyle …?
  • What sort of treatment do you think will work best for me?
  • How does this treatment work in my body?
  • How long will it be before I start to notice changes from taking this treatment?
  • What sort of lab tests/blood tests will I need to have?
    • How often should I have these?
    • Will you remind me to have them, or should I put them in my diary now?
  • How will I know if my treatment isn’t working? What should I do?
  • What sort of side effects are possible from my treatment?
    • What can I do about these side effects?
  • Is there anything I should avoid while taking my treatment?
  • Should I tell other doctors that I’m taking RA treatment?
  • How often should I make an appointment to see you?
    • How can I change this appointment if I need to see you sooner?
  • If my current treatment isn’t working what other treatment options are available?

Click here to download this discussion guide as a PDF to print and take to your appointment. It includes a space to write your own questions.

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White Blood Cells

Your body makes white blood cells to fight infections. White blood cells fight infections by producing antibodies. Antibodies also cause inflammation.

RA involves two types of white blood cells:



Cytokines are messengers that tell the immune system what to do when fighting an infection. Sometimes these messengers can cause inflammation. When the immune system is working normally, the fight is over once the infection is gone. In RA some cytokine levels stay too high. This means that the fight and the inflammation go on and on. It is this ongoing inflammation that causes the symptoms of RA.

RA involves several types of cytokines:

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