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Leflunomide (By mouth)

What works?

Learn more about the effects of these drugs. The most reliable research is summed up for you in our featured article.

Leflunomide is used to relieve symptoms caused by active rheumatoid arthritis, such as inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and joint pain. This medicine works by stopping the body from producing too many of the immune cells that are responsible for the swelling and inflammation. This medicine is available only with your doctor's prescription… Read more
Brand names include
Drug classes About this
Immune Modulator, Immune Suppressant

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Leflunomide for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

‐ Leflunomide probably improves pain.

Efficacy and safety of leflunomide and methotrexate in treating rheumatoid arthritis: a meta-analysis

Bibliographic details: Su R, Wei L, Chen YC, Liu Y.  Efficacy and safety of leflunomide and methotrexate in treating rheumatoid arthritis: a meta-analysis. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2011; 11(9): 1062-1069

Leflunomide in monotherapy of rheumatoid arthritis: meta-analysis of randomized trials

This review found that leflunomide, methotrexate, and sulfasalazine did not differ in their effectiveness for treating rheumatoid arthritis, but leflunomide was more effective than placebo. These conclusions omitted the adverse effect findings and might not be reliable, due to the small number of trials for some comparisons, failure to specify a primary outcome, and high heterogeneity in many analyses.

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Summaries for consumers

Leflunomide for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

‐ Leflunomide probably improves pain.

Medication for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

People with rheumatoid arthritis typically have permanent inflammation in several joints. The joints are painful and swollen, and gradually stiffen. Rheumatoid arthritis usually progresses slowly over many years. The aim of treatment with medication is to relieve the symptoms and prevent the progression of the disease as much as possible. In rheumatoid arthritis, various kinds of medication are used to relieve the symptoms, reduce the inflammation and to keep the joints working properly for as long as possible. There are two types of therapy: disease-modifying therapy and symptomatic therapy. Disease-modifying therapy: These medications are taken regularly for longer periods of time independent of any acute symptoms. They are known as “disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs” or “DMARDs” for short. Disease-modifying drugs inhibit inflammatory responses in the joints of people with rheumatoid arthritis. In this way they can at best stop – or at least delay – the progression of the disease, preventing damage to the joints. Their effect is often only noticeable after one to four months of treatment. DMARDs can be divided up into “conventional” and “biological” disease-modifying drugs.Symptomatic therapy: Medications used in symptomatic therapy are taken to relieve acute pain and inflammation. The main ones are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen (also called paracetamol), and steroids (corticosteroids).

Medicines for Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Review of the Research for Adults

This summary will tell you about two types of medicine to treat RA: DMARDs and corticosteroids. It will explain what research has found about how well DMARDs work when taken alone or with corticosteroids to treat RA. It will also tell you what research says about the side effects of these medicines. You can use this summary to talk with your doctor about whether one of these medicines may be right for you.

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