Arava is an oral leflunomoid used for treating rheumatoid arthritis. It is a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug. Arava is the brand name of leflunomide manufactured by the company Sanofi-Aventis. It is approved in North America, Europe and other parts of the world for treating rheumatoid arthritis.
How Arava Treats Rheumatoid Arthritis
Leflunomide, the main ingredient in Arava, is an immunomodulatory agent. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s own immune system mistakenly considers the joint tissues as foreign or harmful substances. As a result, immune cells attack the joints, resulting in inflammation and pain of the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured with medications. By modifying the activity of the immune system, treatment with leflunomide such as Arava arrests progression of the disease and prevents destruction of joint tissues. Arava works by weakening the immune system. By suppressing the activities of the enzyme dihydroorotate dehydrogenase, it inhibits proliferation of autoimmune lymphocytes linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
How Arava is Used for Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Arava is available in the form of tablets. It is taken orally, usually once a day or as prescribed by the physician, with or without food. During the first three days of the treatment, doctors usually recommend higher dosage of the drug. To experience the benefits of the drug, it should be taken daily according to the instructions of your physician.
It is advisable to take the medication at the same time daily. The duration of the treatment will be determined by your physician. Do not stop taking the drug as soon as the symptoms of the ailment subside. Prolonged treatment is frequently needed to keep the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis under control. Seek medical intervention if you notice any adverse effect of the drug.
Precautions to Take
To reduce the risk of harmful side effects of Arava, the medication should be taken under medical supervision. Arava may interact with several prescription and non-prescription drugs. People on acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cholesterol lowering drugs, niacin, iron products, cancer medications, gold compounds and other immunosuppressant drugs should inform their physicians about their medication list before taking Arava.
If you are already taking Arava, do not take any other medications and supplements without consulting your physician. People with weak immune system, active infections, diseases of the bone marrow and kidney problems should take proper caution while taking Arava.
Immunosuppressant drugs increase the risk of infection. Therefore, proper precaution needs to be taken to diminish the risk of infections. High blood pressure is a common side effect of Arava. People on this anti-rheumatic medication should regularly monitor their blood pressure level. Arava is not recommended for people planning to conceive.
Side Effects of Arava
Just as any other drug, Arava may cause few adverse side effects. Vomiting, heartburn, diarrhea, muscle pain, tingling or numbness of the extremities, dizziness, headache, mouth sore and hair loss are common side effects of the drug. Breathing difficulty, chest pain, cough, hives and rash are symptoms of allergic reactions that need emergency medical intervention. Leflunomide may stay in your body for about two years even after stopping the drug. Therefore, to eliminate it from the body speedily, a drug called cholestyramine is prescribed by doctors.