Common Medications Used to Treat Lupus


  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), may be used to treat a variety of signs and symptoms associated with lupus. NSAIDs are available over-the-counter, or stronger versions can be prescribed by your doctor. Check with your doctor before taking over-the-counter NSAIDs because some have been associated with serious side effects in people with lupus. Side effects of NSAIDs include stomach bleeding, kidney problems and an increased risk of heart problems.
  • Antimalarial drugs. Although there's no known relationship between lupus and malaria, these medications have proved useful in treating signs and symptoms of lupus. Antimalarials may also prevent flares of the disease. Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is the most commonly prescribed antimalarial. Side effects of antimalarial drugs include vision problems and muscle weakness.
  • Corticosteroids. These drugs counter the inflammation of lupus, but can have serious long-term side effects, including weight gain, easy bruising, thinning bones (osteoporosis), high blood pressure, diabetes and increased risk of infection. The risk of side effects increases with higher doses and longer term therapy. To help reduce these risks, your doctor will try to find the lowest dose that controls your symptoms and prescribe corticosteroids for the shortest possible time. Taking the drug every other day also can help reduce side effects. Corticosteroids are sometimes combined with another medication to help reduce the dose, and therefore the toxicity, of both drugs. Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements while using corticosteroids can reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
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