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For the over 6 million Canadians living with arthritis, pain is one of the many challenges they face on a daily basis. And though medication is only one option in terms of arthritis treatment, drugs can provide pain relief (and slow joint damage in many cases of inflammatory forms of arthritis). Keep in mind that many lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating, exercise and treatments such as physical therapy, should also be explored.

The good news is: medications on the market today are safer and more effective than ever before. Medications to treat arthritis can be divided into two general categories: those that control symptoms and those that control the disease itself.

Arthritis Medications: A Reference Guide is designed to help you make informed decisions about your treatment plan and enable you to ask your healthcare team specific questions related to your care. It is an educational guide and can answer some of your questions around available medications, including details on dosages, effectiveness, side effects and warnings.

This is not, however, a how-to on self-medicating. As advised throughout the guide, you will have to discuss any new treatments or questions you have with your doctor, pharmacist and/or other healthcare provider. Arthritis is a complicated disease and only a medical professional can accurately diagnose and recommend a treatment plan most appropriate for your specific situation.

You have an essential role to play in the management of your arthritis. Start by learning the most you can about your disease, medications and other treatments, and learn to ask questions of your healthcare team. Information is key and with the right treatment and support from your healthcare team, people living with arthritis can lead active, fulfilling and more productive lives.

  • Medication Safety

    The need to effectively monitor new drugs once they have been approved and introduced into the market has been a key issue for The Arthritis Society and other members of the arthritis community. This helps to ensure that unfavourable side effects are reported, documented and addressed. All medications have potential side effects, whether they are taken by themselves or in combination with other herbal, over-the-counter and/or prescription medications. It is therefore important for patients to discuss the benefits and potential side effects of all their medications with their doctor.

    In an effort to make it easier for consumers to report side effects from health products, Health Canada has developed an online form. The form can be found at: A PDF version of the form can be downloaded and mailed to Health Canada using a downloadable postage-paid label. You can also call 1.866.234.2345 (toll-free). Leave a message and you will receive a call back.

    To find out more about drugs approved for use in Canada, visit the Health Canada Drug Product Database (DPD). The database is managed by Health Canada and includes human pharmaceutical and biological drugs. To view the database, visit:

  • Limitations of the Guide

    This guide does not replace your doctor’s advice — it is essential that you consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment if you have joint pain and swelling for longer than six weeks.

    This guide is intended for adults only. Medications used to treat arthritis in adults and children differ, including dosage recommendations and other safety considerations.

    As with all medications, drugs used to manage arthritis carry some risk of side effects, which must be balanced with the potential benefits. When monitored properly the vast majority of side effects are rare, most improve over time and are reversible. If you believe you are experiencing a side effect related to your medication, please contact one of your healthcare providers to discuss the issue.

    If you are taking medication for another long-term health problem (such as heart, liver and kidney conditions, high blood pressure, ulcers or asthma), you should discuss possible drug interactions with your doctor or your pharmacist. Also, if you are allergic to a specific medication, inform your doctor and your pharmacist.

    If you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant or breastfeeding, you must inform your doctor, since certain medications can be passed on through the placenta or into a mother’s milk. Speak to your doctor about your individual circumstances.