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What Types of Medications are Used to Treat PsA?

There are several different kinds of medications used to treat psoriatic arthritis (PsA). The treatments for PsA can be organized into several categories, including:

  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID)
  • Corticosteroid
  • Traditional Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drug (DMARDs)
  • Biologic DMARDs
  • Biosimilars
  • Target-specific DMARDs
  • Other medications

What are Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)?

NSAIDs are among the most commonly used pain medicines, and they also decrease inflammation at higher doses. NSAIDs can be an effective treatment for mild PsA. Most people tolerate NSAIDs well, but side effects are possible.1,2

Some NSAIDs are available over-the-counter while others are available only with a prescription. NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and other generic and brand name drugs.1

What are Corticosteroids?

Corticosteroids, also called glucocorticoids or steroids, are medications that mimic the hormone cortisol, which reduces inflammation in the body. Corticosteroids are often injected into affected joints in people with PsA.3

What are traditional Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)

Traditional DMARDs are medications which can slow or stop the inflammatory process that can damage joints and lead to long-term disability. Traditional (or non-biologic) DMARDs include methotrexate, Azulfidine® (sulfasalazine), Arava® (leflunomide), and antimalarial drugs, such as Plaquenil® (hydroxychloroquine) and Aralen® (chloroquine phosphate).4,5

What are Biologic DMARDs?

Biologic DMARDs are types of therapies that include bioengineered proteins that mimic functions found in specific human genes or cells. They work by interfering with specific substances in the immune system to reduce or better regulate the inflammatory responses that cause PsA and psoriasis symptoms. Common proteins targeted include tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and various interleukins (IL).2,5 Biologic DMARDs include:

  • Cimzia® (certolizumab pegol)
  • Cosentyx® (secukinumab)
  • Enbrel® (etanercept)
  • Humira® (adalimumab)
  • Orencia® (abatacept)
  • Remicade® (infliximab)
  • Simponi® (golimumab)
  • Simponi Aria® (golimumab)
  • Stelara® (ustekinumab)
  • Taltz® (ixekizumab)

What are Biosimilars?

Biosimilars are a type of biologic therapy that are highly similar to an already approved biological product. Like biologics, biosimilars have bioengineered proteins that mimic certain functions in human genes or cells, and they are made from living organisms.6,7 Biosimilars used in the treatment of PsA include:

  • Amjevita™ (adalimumuab-atto)
  • Cyltezo® (adalimumab-adbm)
  • Erelzi™ (etanercept-szzs)
  • Inflectra® (infliximab-dyyb)
  • Ixifi™ (infliximab-qbtx)
  • Renflexis™ (infliximab-abda)

What are target-specific DMARDs

Target-specific DMARDs work by specifically targeting certain cellular enzymes to help reduce the inflammatory response that causes joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Target-specific DMARDs used to treat PsA include Otezla® (apremilast). Otezla is an oral systemic and phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) inhibitor. PDE4 inhibitors suppress characteristic features in the immune response, such as cell recruitment and activation of inflammatory cells.8,9

What are other types of medications used to manage PsA symptoms?

There are several other medications that may be used for treating PsA including:

  • Cyclosporine: Available under the brand names Sandimmune® (cyclosporine), Neoral® (cyclosporine), and Gengraf® (cyclosporine), cyclosporine is one of the primary systemic medications used in the treatment of more severe types of psoriasis. It is classified as an immunosuppressant drug and works by reducing or blocking certain immune system factors that cause the inflammation in PsA.5
  • Imuran® (azathioprine): Imuran is used to treat several autoimmune conditions. It works by suppressing the immune system, which is overactive in diseases like PsA.10
  • Xeljanz® (tofacitinib) and Xeljanz XR® (tofacitinib): Xeljanz and the extended-release version Xeljanz XR are Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors. JAK is a type of cytokine, or chemical messenger, that is believed to play a role in inflammation.11
Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: January 2019.
  1. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). American College of Rheumatology. Available at https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/PatientCaregiver/Treatments/NSAIDs. Accessed 3/19/18.
  2. de Vlam K, Gottlieb AB, Mease PJ. Current concepts in psoriatic arthritis: pathogenesis and management. Acta Derm Venereol. 2014 Nov;94(6):627-34.
  3. Psoriatic arthritis treatment. Arthritis Foundation. Available at http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/psoriatic-arthritis/treatment.php. Accessed 3/19/18.
  4. Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment. Arthritis Foundation. Available at http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/psoriatic-arthritis/treatment.php. Accessed 3/16/18.
  5. Gladman DD, Ritchlin C. Treatment of psoriatic arthritis. UpToDate. Available at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-of-psoriatic-arthritis. Accessed 3/20/18.
  6. Biosimilars, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at https://www.fda.gov/drugs/developmentapprovalprocess/howdrugsaredevelopedandapproved/approvalapplications/therapeuticbiologicapplications/biosimilars/default.htm. Accessed 4/2/18.
  7. Morrow T, Felcone LH. Defining the difference: What Makes Biologics Unique. Biotechnology Healthcare. 2004;1(4):24-29.
  8. Otezla product website, Celgene Corporation. Available at https://www.otezla.com/psoriatic-arthritis/. Accessed 3/20/18.
  9. Edwards CJ, Blano FJ, Crowley J, Birbana CA, Jaworski J, Aelion J, Stevens RM, Vessey A, Zhan X, Bird P. Apremilast, an oral phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitor, in patients with psoriatic arthritis and current skin involvement: a phase III, randomised, controlled trial (PALACE 3). Ann Rheum Dis. 2016 Jun;75(6):1065-73. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2015-207963. Epub 2016 Jan 20.
  10. Azathioprine (Imuran). American College of Rheumatology. Available at https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Treatments/Azathioprine-Imuran. Accessed 3/20/18.
  11. Xeljanz prescribing information. Pfizer, Inc. Available at http://labeling.pfizer.com/ShowLabeling.aspx?id=959. Accessed 3/20/18.