Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is notoriously painful. And if the pain alone isn’t enough for patients to deal with, most prescription RA medications are also notoriously expensive. Despite little to no change in composition, experts say over the past three years, RA medications have become much more expensive. Since RA currently affects 1.5 million adults, steadily rising drug prices are a huge concern for healthcare industry experts. While some patients turn to painkillers for symptom relief, those RA medications don’t slow down the disease’s progress. In fact, even patients who can afford the most expensive RA medications may find that serious side effects outweigh the drugs’ benefits.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most popular prescription RA medications available on the market today.
Comparing RA Medications: TNF Inhibitors
Today, the four most common prescription RA medications available belong to a drug class that’s called “TNF inhibitors.” Doctors all over the globe prescribe TNF inhibitors to treat inflammatory conditions as well as autoimmune disorders, like Crohn’s disease. In healthy individuals’ bodies, excess TNF in the blood is naturally blocked. But patients with rheumatic conditions have even higher TNF levels in their blood, causing inflammation, pain, swelling and other symptoms. To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved six different RA medications that are categorized as TNF inhibitors.
Here’s a closer look at the four most popular TNF inhibitor drugs currently available to treat RA:
TNF Inhibitor #1: Humira
Costs $4,357 for two pens that contain 40 mg/8ml
TNF Inhibitor #2: Enbrel
Costs $4,538 for one carton containing four sureclicks (50 mg)
TNF Inhibitor #3: Simponi
Costs $4,240 for one syringe containing 50 mg/.5ml
TNF Inhibitor #4: Remicade
Costs $20,695 for 18 vials containing 100mg
Comparing RA Medications: IL-6 Inhibitors
Patients who don’t respond to TNF inhibitors usually switch to IL-6 Inhibitors, another popular drug class for prescription RA medications. In fact, this therapeutic drug class can treat both inflammatory diseases as well as various cancers and Castleman’s disease. The FDA’s approved multiple IL-6 inhibitor RA medications, which work to reduce swelling and suppress the patient’s overactive immune system. Below are the two most popular FDA-approved IL-6 inhibitors available to treat RA symptoms:
IL-6 Inhibitor #1: Kineret
- $935 for one carton (seven syringes) containing 100mg/.067ml
IL-6 Inhibitor #2: Actemra
- $818 per month for two vials (4ml of 20mg/ml)
Since Actemra initially gained FDA approval in 2010, there have been $379.4 million in U.S. sales alone since January 2017.
Comparing RA Medications: Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDS)
The final type of RA drug are disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS). They slow the progression of joint damage from rheumatoid arthritis. Here’s a cost breakdown:
DMARD #1: Methotrexate (MTX)
Rheumatologists highly recommend patients try methotrexate, the most frequently prescribed DMARD with the fewest patient-reported side effects. A February 2017 study compared costs associated with using MTX versus biologic therapy-based RA medications. Researchers found that starting treatment with MTX may “delay the use of expensive biologic therapies.” Furthermore, the study found patients who switched to MTX incurred lower treatment costs than those using biologics alone. (Biologic therapy drugs include medications classified as IL-6 inhibitors as well as TNF inhibitors.)
- $31.34 for 24 2.5mg tablets
- MTX cost without insurance: approx. $636 per month
If you’re taking a biologic RA medication (such as Actemra or Humira), ask your doctor about switching to MTX instead. Not only will you save a significant amount of money, MTX might also save your life. In addition, RA medications like Actemra may cause serious cardiovascular risks and other dangers including heart failure, stroke and GI perforations.
DMARD #2: Hydroxychloroquine (Generic Plaquenil)
Originally developed to treat malaria, doctors often prescribe hydroxychloroquine for early stage or newly diagnosed RA cases. Because this medication may damage your eyes in the long term, it is important to schedule an annual eye exam with your ophthalmologist.
- $35.15 for 60 200mg tablets
- Cost for a 90-day supply from HealthWarehouse: $116.40
In order to compare costs for RA medications not listed here, visit https://www.goodrx.com/ and enter each drug’s name in the search box.
What Actemra Victims Can Do
If you or someone you love experienced GI perforation injuries or heart problems with Actemra, you may qualify for compensation. To see if you may be entitled to a cash settlement, fill out your free Actemra claim review form today and if you qualify,an experienced lawyer will call to explain how to get the compensation and justice you deserve.
Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.