Methotrexate is a non-biologic DMARD (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug) used to treat certain types of arthritis and rheumatic conditions. Methotrexate is classified as a DMARD because it decreases pain and swelling associated with arthritis, and also, methotrexate can lessen joint damage and lower the risk of long-term disability. Improvement from methotrexate may be seen at 6 weeks but it may take 12 weeks or even 6 months of treatment for full benefit to be realized.
While the drug is effective for many arthritis patients, there are warnings to ensure safe use of the drug. For example, since methotrexate is a folic acid antagonist, it must be replenished by taking a 1 mg folic acid supplement daily. Folic acid supplementation should also minimize side effects associated with taking methotrexate.
Based on an analysis of 7,945,910 prescriptions written by rheumatologists from January to March 2008, 8.5% of the prescriptions were for methotrexate -- making it the most popular arthritis drug prescribed -- and 5.8% were written for folic acid, making it the third most common prescription for arthritis.