While NSAIDs alleviate the pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, they do nothing to halt the loss of bone associated with this disease. The DMARDs are a chemically diverse class of agents, all of which have varying capacities to slow the progression of joint erosion. Their actions manifest over the course of weeks to months; they are usually employed in combination with NSAIDs and sometimes other DMARDs. Until the mid-1990s, DMARDs were reserved for treatment of the later stages of the disease in which significant joint erosion had already occurred. These agents were added individually, in slow succession (more than 6 months), as the disease progressed. More recent therapies employ certain DMARDs early in the treatment of disease, since they are effective in slowing the joint deterioration that occurs at this stage.
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