Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Drugs That Cause Weight Loss

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints, causing inflammation and progressive damage. In this condition, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues, particularly the synovial membrane that lines the joints.

The exact cause of RA is unknown, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Women are more commonly affected than men, and the disease usually develops between the ages of 30 and 60. RA typically causes joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited range of motion. The symptoms often affect multiple joints symmetrically, meaning both sides of the body are usually involved. Fatigue, fever, and general malaise may also occur.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease that can lead to joint deformity, loss of function, and disability. If left untreated, it can also affect other organs, such as the heart, lungs, and eyes. In this article, we will delve into some of the RA drugs that have been linked to weight loss and discuss their mechanisms of action and considerations for individuals with RA.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Weight

Weight can have an impact on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in several ways. Here are some key points to consider regarding the relationship between RA and weight:

1.      Disease Activity: Excess weight or obesity can contribute to increased disease activity and inflammation in RA. Adipose tissue (fat) produces pro-inflammatory substances that can worsen joint inflammation and pain. Losing weight may help reduce inflammation and potentially alleviate symptoms.

2.      Joint Stress: Being overweight places additional stress on weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips. This increased stress can exacerbate joint damage and pain in individuals with RA. Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight can help alleviate joint stress and improve mobility.

3.      Medication Effectiveness: Some medications commonly used to treat RA, such as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologic agents, may be less effective in individuals who are overweight or obese. Achieving a healthy weight can enhance the effectiveness of these medications and improve disease management.

4.      Comorbidities: Rheumatoid arthritis is associated with an increased risk of developing other health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Excess weight can further increase the risk of these comorbidities. Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of developing these conditions and improve overall health.

5.      Exercise and Mobility: Regular physical activity is beneficial for individuals with RA, as it helps maintain joint flexibility, muscle strength, and overall function. However, excess weight can make it more challenging to engage in physical activity and may lead to decreased mobility. Losing weight can make exercise more manageable and improve overall physical function.

Exploring Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs That May Cause Weight Loss

Rheumatoid arthritis drugs that have been linked to weight loss include:

1.      Methotrexate: Methotrexate is one of the most commonly prescribed disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for RA. While weight loss is not a direct intended effect of this medication, some individuals may experience mild to moderate weight reduction while using it. The exact mechanisms behind this weight loss are not fully understood. However, potential reasons include decreased appetite, gastrointestinal side effects, and metabolic changes induced by the drug.

It is important to note that not everyone experiences weight loss with methotrexate, and some individuals may even experience weight gain. As with any medication, the effects can vary between individuals, and it is crucial to discuss any concerns or changes in weight with your healthcare provider.

2.      Tofacitinib: Tofacitinib is an oral Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor that is used in the treatment of moderate to severe RA. While the primary aim of tofacitinib is to reduce inflammation and control symptoms, weight loss has been reported as a potential side effect in some individuals. The exact mechanisms leading to weight loss with tofacitinib are not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to changes in metabolism and appetite regulation.

It is important to note that weight loss with tofacitinib is generally modest and not a guaranteed outcome for everyone taking the medication. Additionally, weight loss should not be the primary goal of treatment, but rather a potential secondary effect.

3.      Other Medications: While methotrexate and tofacitinib are commonly associated with weight loss, it is worth mentioning that weight changes can occur with other RA medications as well. For instance, corticosteroids like prednisone, which are sometimes used to manage RA symptoms, can cause weight gain due to their impact on appetite and metabolism. However, tapering off corticosteroids under medical supervision may result in weight loss.

Additionally, other DMARDs and biologic agents used in the treatment of RA have a neutral effect on weight or insufficient data regarding weight changes. Each medication works differently and affects individuals uniquely, so it is important to discuss any concerns or experiences with weight changes with your healthcare provider.

Considerations and Recommendations

1.      Individual Variations: Weight changes associated with RA medications can vary significantly between individuals. Some individuals may experience weight loss, while others may experience weight gain or no significant changes. Therefore, it is important to communicate with your healthcare provider about any weight changes you experience during RA treatment.

2.      Monitoring and Support: Regular monitoring of weight, along with discussions about any concerns or changes, can help healthcare providers evaluate the effects of medications on an individual basis. It is crucial to maintain a healthy weight and overall well-being while managing RA. Seek support from healthcare professionals, including dietitians or nutritionists, to optimize your dietary choices and physical activity levels.

3.      Holistic Approach: While weight loss may occur as a side effect of certain RA medications, it is important to prioritize the management of RA symptoms and overall health. Treatment plans for RA typically involve a multidisciplinary approach, including medication, physical activity, dietary modifications, and other lifestyle interventions. Focus on maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and following the recommended treatment regimen to manage RA effectively.


Weight changes, including weight loss, can occur as a side effect of certain medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. However, it is essential to approach RA management holistically, focusing on symptom control, overall health, and individual needs. If you have concerns about weight changes or are considering weight management strategies, it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific circumstances. Remember, weight changes can vary among individuals, and the primary goal is to optimize RA management and overall well-being.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker