When you suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis, you suffer from swollen, painful joints throughout your body. In more severe cases, long-term exposure to joint inflammation can cause bone erosion and joint deformity.
There is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis, but there are methods to ease its painful symptoms and slow down or halt the progression of the disease altogether. Medications, homeopathic remedies, and physical therapy have all been shown to be helpful in the treatment of RA. One medication in particular has been found to have a significant impact on the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis, especially in moderate to severe cases of the disease. This drug is called Remicade.
Remicade is a treatment method for Rheumatoid Arthritis that is given intravenously. It’s usually prescribed for patients who are experiencing aggressive RA symptoms in efforts to halt the progression of joint damage.
Known generically as Infliximab, Remicade is an antibody that works to breakdown the occurrence of joint inflammation. Specifically, it blocks the messengers in the brain that tell immune cells in your body to cause inflammation to protect the joints. With RA, the immune system is essentially attacking the body, so Remicade works to block the signal to create more inflammation.
It is the joint inflammation that causes the pain associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis. By blocking this from occurring, pain is minimized. Remicade also works to slow down the progression of the disease itself to decrease the risk of joint destruction.
As stated above, Remicade is given intravenously. And, often in combination with methotrexate, a popular medication in the treatment of RA. When given in combination with methotrexate, Remicade is usually prescribed because methotrexate is not fully helping when used alone.
As Remicade is given intravenously, you’ll need to visit a doctor’s office or an outpatient treatment center to receive the drug. As a dose of Remicade is not a simple shot, it’s an actual transfusion, administration of the drug takes approximately two hours. Remicade comes in powdered form, which is then mixed with water for infusion. The mixture is placed in a transfusion bag and dripped slowly intravenously. During administration, your blood pressure will be checked periodically and a nurse will assess you for side effects of the drug.
Dosage of Remicade is based on a patient’s weight. The recommended dose is 3 mg/kg. Heavier patients will need more Remicade than lighter patients. After the initial dose of 3mg/kg, additional doses of 3mg/kg should be given at two and six week intervals. Maintenance doses of Remicade are administered at eight week intervals.
It’s important to note that a single dose of Remicade is very expensive and is sometimes not covered by insurance. A single dose typically ranges from $1,300 to $2,500. Medicare does not cover Remicade. Prior to beginning Remicade, you should work with your doctor’s office to determine insurance options. Remicade can be covered by insurance, though the doctor’s office will likely have to answer a number of questions for the insurance company (why other treatments didn’t work, why Remicade is being recommended, etc.).
In general, the side effects of Remicade have been pretty mild. The most common side effects of the drug are rashes and headaches. However, other side effects that have been reported include:
Right after the IV infusion is completed, some patients experience changes in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, chest pain, itching, fever, and chills. Let your doctor or nurse know if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, as they might indicate an allergic reaction to the drug.
Because of drug interactions, there are a number of conditions you should tell your doctor about prior to taking Remicade.
If you have any of the following, please consult with your doctor:
While there have been no significant studies of the effects of Remicade in pregnancy, Remicade should only be used while pregnant if necessary. Remicade is transferred in breast milk, so you should not breastfeed while using Remicade.