Chemotherapy for Arthritis

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Aug 17, 2012

How does Chemotherapy work for Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis can be treated using chemotherapy. Unlike cancer in which chemotherapy suppresses or stops the production of cancerous cells, in arthritis, it alleviates the abnormal behaviour of cells rather than destroying them. The doses prescribed for chemotherapy treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are lower in number and amount than what is prescribed to cancer patients. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and chemotherapy helps in reducing metabolic processes produced by overactive cells that cause an inflammatory reaction of the joints.

Chemotherapy Drugs used for Arthritis

  • Rheumatrex— It is among the most effective chemotherapeutic drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis and certain other rheumatic diseases, such as inflamed blood vessels. Also known as methotrexate, it is an oral drug taken once in a week. Some people take it weekly in the form of an injection. It causes some side-effects, but they are easily preventable and treatable.
  • Imuran— Since many years, this immunosuppressive drug has been used in kidney transplantations to prevent the organ rejection by the patient’s body. This drug is also used in chemotherapy for arthritis. It is taken by mouth every week.
  • Cytoxan— This one is a strong chemotherapeutic drug that presents more side-effects than the above mentioned drugs. The most repressive rheumatic ailments are treated using this drug. Cytoxan suppress the production and growth of cancerous cells, however, in this process, it also kills healthy cells,  increasing the risk of infection.

Side-effects of Chemotherapy Drugs for Arthritis

although the chemotherapeutic doses used for treating arthritis are comparatively lower than drugs used to cure cancer,  the side-effects of drugs used for treating arthritis are common.

  • Cytoxan, Imuran and Rheumatrex can impact the formation of blood cells causing anaemia leading to decreased immunity to withstand viral and bacterial attacks due to less number of white blood cells and thrombocytopenia or low platelet count, thereby leading to blood clotting.
  • Rheumatrex and Imuran can possibly lead to liver damage and damaged urinary bladder lining causing bleeding. This may be an outcome of cytoxan.
  • Other than the above mentioned disadvantages of chemotherapeutic medications, cytoxan may also cause hair loss and when used in combination with rheumatrex, it can lead to damaged lungs.



Duration of Chemotherapy Drugs Dosage for Rheumatoid Arthritis


A patient of rheumatoid arthritis requires weeks to months to get complete benefits of chemotherapy. The drugs may be used for a prolonged period, however, the patient needs to be monitored for any side-effects.


Read more articles on Chemotherapy.



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