Medications play an important role in the care of most people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This pamphlet (see Table 1 on page 5) discusses the principal drugs used in the primary management of lupus:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Cytotoxic, or immunosuppressive, drugs
- Investigational (research) drugs:
- hormone modifications
- more selective immunosuppressive drugs
- biologic agents.
Which Medications Are Right For My Lupus?
The choice of drugs is highly individualized and typically changes often during the course of the disease. Factors that are considered in treatment decisions include:
- the type and severity of lupus symptoms
- the person's response to treatment
- risks of drug side effects.
In addition, it is important to note that people with lupus often require other drugs for the treatment of conditions commonly seen with the disease. Examples of these types of medications include:
- diuretics for fluid retention
- anti-hypertensive drugs for increased blood pressure
- anti-convulsants for seizure disorders
- antibiotics for infections
- drugs for osteoporosis.
Anti-inflammatory drugs relieve the symptoms of lupus by reducing the inflammation responsible for the pain and discomfort.
- Anti-inflammatory medications are the most commonly used drugs for lupus treatment, particularly for symptoms such as:
- arthritis, or
- Improvement in symptoms is generally noted within several days of beginning treatment.
- In the majority of people with lupus, anti-inflammatory drugs are the only medication that is ever required to control their lupus.
Anti-inflammatory drugs fall into two categories (see Table 1 on page 5)
1. non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs
The NSAIDs include both salicylates (aspirin) and related drugs that may be purchased over the counter (brand names: Advil, Nuprin, Aleve) or that require a physician's prescription.
When Should My Doctor Prescribe NSAIDs?
NSAIDs are especially useful for:
- musculoskeletal symptoms, such as arthritis, arthralgia, joint stiffness or pain
- fever and chest pain from mild pleurisy (inflammation of the lining of the lung)
- pericarditis (inflammation of the sac around the heart).
For reasons that are not known, people often respond better to one non-steroidal drug than another, and it may be necessary to try courses of several different drugs to determine the most effective one.