treatments for RA

Your hospital consultant may decide that one of the newer rheumatoid arthritis treatments may be beneficial for you. Usually this decision is taken because your symptoms are not being adequately controlled by your current medication, and it is felt that another treatment may help.

The newer treatments, known as biologics, are either given by intravenous infusions (through a ‘drip’), which requires visiting either a hospital department or a community-based clinic or by injection, which offers the option of self-administration.

For many people, these methods of medicines delivery may be a new experience and totally different to taking an oral medication. However, IV and injectable medicines are becoming more usual with many chronic and common illnesses such as diabetes, osteoporosis etc.

IV treatment

It is difficult to generalise about the experience of receiving IV treatments since the centres that provide the services vary so much from area to area and there are different prescribed treatments.

However, there are some practical questions, which may be useful to ask your health professional so that you can be prepared for your treatment. The treatment may take a couple of hours.

The responses will vary depending on the centre to which you are being referred and what specific drug you are prescribed. Some centres are in hospitals while others are in the community. Writing out your questions in advance of seeing your doctor and taking notes while you are there may prove very useful:

  • How long does the IV treatment take?
  • How often is the treatment given?
  • What facilities are in the centre? (Can you take a friend, is there a TV, should you bring something to read, are you allowed to have anything to drink?)
  • Will you be with other patients with different illnesses?
  • What is the situation regarding car parking?
  • Are you likely to feel unwell after your IV treatment and what should you do?
  • Is it advisable for you to drive yourself home?
  • What side effects might you experience?
  • How long will it take before you will feel the effects of the new medication?

Treatment by injection

Some of the newer medications are given by injection. Where appropriate, you will be taught how to self-inject by your doctor or nurse. There is patient education information and also videos for various self-injected medications available. With various forms of support, self-injection can become routine with hardly any discomfort.

For more information and to find out about arthritis support services, log on to Arthritis Ireland at