Arthritis treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and improving joint function. You may need to try several different treatments, or combinations of treatments, before you determine what works best for you.

The medications used to treat arthritis vary depending on the type of arthritis and can be divided into three:

broad groups, namely:


Strong Painkillers


- acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc) 

- tramadol (Ultram, ultracet, etc) 

- others containing oxycodone (Percocet, Oxycontin, etc) or hydrocodone (Narco, Vicoprofen, etc)

These relieve pain but no effect on inflammation. They are used for many different types of arthritis and are often used together with other drugs.


Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs


 ibuprofen (advil, motrin IB,etc)

- naproxen sodium (Aleve,etc)

- Diclofenac gel / cream (Voltaire etc)

NSAIDs reduce both pain and inflammation. Over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Some types of NSAIDs are available only by prescription. Oral NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation, and some may increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. Some NSAIDs are also available as creams or gels, which can be rubbed on joints.

Some varieties of creams and ointments contain menthol or capsaicin, the ingredient that makes hot peppers spicy. Rubbing these preparations on the skin over your aching joint may interfere with the transmission of pain signals from the joint itself.


Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs


- hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)

- leflunomide


- sulfasalazine

Often called second line drugs; used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are to slow or stop your immune system from attacking your joints. 

 They reduce pain, swelling and stiffness. They do not work at once but may take several weeks to become effective. If you do not do well on one of these drugs, or if you develop any side-effects, then your doctor may try one of the others or a combination of several. 


Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs


- methotrexate (Trexall)

- azathioprine


- cyclophosphamide

These relieve pain but have no effect on inflammation. They are used for many different types of arthritis and are often used together with other drugs.


Updated DMARDs 


- anti TNF adalimumab

- etanercept 

- infliximab

Typically used in conjunction with DMARDs. Biologic response modifiers are genetically engineered drugs (injected) that target various protein molecules that are involved in the immune response. Examples include etanercept (Enbrel) and infliximab (Remicade).

Biologics are commonly used for people who have not responded to other DMARDs. The B-cell drug rituximab is the newest drug in this group. Currently very costly due to extensive research and development, plus a complex and lengthy manufacturing process. The prices are coming down thanks to increased competition as more competitors bring biologics to the market.




- prednisone

- cortisone

Corticosteroids are very effective in controlling inflammation and may have some disease-modifying effects. However, if used for a long time (many months) or in high doses they produce side-effects. For this reason doctors try to avoid these drugs or use them in as low a dose as possible. Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) can be caused by steroids and for this reason your doctor may prescribe treatment to protect your bones while taking steroids. However, they do have an important role to play in many different rheumatic diseases. For example, if one particular joint is inflamed, your doctor may inject it with a steroid preparation. Steroids can also be injected into a vein or a muscle.










In a nutshell

We are the only body in our country that provides non-medical support for arthritis patients, their families and carers.

To do this we are involved in a wide range of education and support programmes, in providing access to information about  diseases, and by advocating the interests of people with arthritis in government, medical and media circles.



Get in touch

Questions and requests for information from members and non-members are welcome.

Unit 8, Inospace - Island Works, 22 Cumberland Rd, Paarden Eiland, Cape Town, 7405

Available 08:30 – 16:00 Monday–Friday

Tel: +27 21 425 2344


Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) Number: 930011128

Non Profit Organisation Registration Number: 002-847-NPO

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HELPLINE: +27 861 30 30 30