Arava is a disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) that may be prescribed to treat rheumatoid arthritis and slow its progression to help prevent further joint damage. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that is progressive and disabling as it can cause deformities of the affected joints; most commonly in the hands, wrists, and feet. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but Arava can help slow the progression of this disease and help prevent it from causing further joint damage, especially if diagnosed and treated early.
Early diagnosis of RA can help to reduce the damage to your joints and allow you to perform your daily tasks with less difficulty and pain from ongoing inflammation. Arava or generic Leflunomide may be taken alone or with another drug called Methotrexate. The generic alternative is not manufactured by the company that makes the brand product.
When taken as directed, Arava suppresses immune cells by inhibiting a certain enzyme that is necessary for producing DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid). Without DNA and RNA, the immune cells cannot reproduce or exist. This is a different mechanism of action that can be beneficial to those with rheumatoid arthritis, especially when partnered with a biologic response modifier to target proteins, cells, and pathways that are responsible for the painful inflammation and damage that RA can cause.
Nobody knows for certain why some people’s immune systems become confused and begin attacking their own tissues or organs. Your joint linings are normally very thin with few blood vessels and no white blood cells, but when an immune response is triggered, the lining of the inflamed joint becomes thick and over-crowded with white blood cells. The white blood cells produce a large amount of chemical substances that are the reason for your swelling, pain, and joint damage. It is not just the joint lining that is affected. The bone starts to erode and the joint cartilage is damaged which can result in the deformities as their shape and alignment are altered.
Arava can cause serious birth defects and can remain in your body long after you have stopped taking it. Whether you are a male or female, effective birth control methods or devices should be used to prevent a pregnancy. Notify your doctor immediately should you become pregnant while taking Arava and switch to bottle feeding with formula or do not start Arava until baby is weaned.
Your doctor should be made aware of other medical conditions and allergies you have and be provided with a list of all OTC and Rx drugs you take, including herbal, dietary, or vitamin supplements to be sure Arava is safe for you to take.
Keep all doctor and lab appointments so your doctor can monitor your liver function while you are taking Arava. Do not start or stop taking other medications without first talking to your doctor. Do not consume any alcohol during treatment with Arava as it can increase your risk of liver problems. Try to avoid crowds of people where germs are easily passed on as you may be more susceptible to infection when your immune system is lowered.