What are Other Medicines Used to Treat Psoriatic Arthritis?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2022 | Last updated: December 2022

Several different kinds of medicines are available to treat psoriatic arthritis (PsA). Some medicines work better than others for people. Common types of drugs for PsA include:

This article focuses on the other drugs that are not classified as either an NSAID, corticosteroid, or DMARD. They include:

What is Acthar?

H.P. Acthar Gel (repository corticotropin injection) is a long-acting gel that is injected under the skin or into a muscle. It is used to treat psoriatic arthritis flares at times when symptoms suddenly worsen. Acthar can be an additional, short-term treatment used with other treatments for PsA. Acthar works with the immune system to help reduce inflammation.1,2

Common side effects of Acthar include:1

  • Fluid retention
  • Changes in blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes in behavior and mood
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

Acthar can increase the risk of infections. Long-term use of Acthar can affect the adrenal gland, which can cause symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome. After stopping long-term treatment with Acthar, the adrenal glands may not produce enough cortisol on their own. This is called adrenal insufficiency.1

What is cyclosporine?

Cyclosporine is available under the brand names Sandimmune®, Neoral®, and Gengraf®. Cyclosporine is one of the main systemic drugs used to treat more severe types of psoriasis. It is an immunosuppressant drug. It works by reducing or blocking certain immune system functions that cause inflammation in PsA.3

Common side effects of cyclosporine include:4

  •  High blood pressure
  • Kidney damage
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Burning or tingling feelings in hands, arms, feet, or legs

Cyclosporine may increase the risk of certain cancers, including lymphoma and skin cancer. This risk may be increased if cyclosporine is used in combination with certain other drugs.4

What is Imuran?

Imuran (azathioprine) is used to treat several autoimmune conditions. It works by suppressing the immune system, which is overactive in PsA. Imuran is also used in people who have had organ transplants to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ.5

Common side effects of Imuran include:5,6

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Taking Imuran with food may help reduce side effects. Imuran may increase the risk of certain cancers. This risk may be higher in people who have had a kidney transplant. 5,6

Things to know about these drugs

This is not a comprehensive list of side effects for these medications. Side effects can vary depending on the specific drug you are taking.

Before beginning treatment for PsA, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

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