IV Infusion Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Many seniors suffer from chronic pain associated with arthritis secondary to aging. There are two main types of arthritis, Osteoarthritis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, usually from wear and tear, or when the cushioning or cartilage in between the joints breaks down.
This causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness and can affect any of the joints throughout the body.
As tissues line the joints, RA, in turn, affects the lining causing pain, swelling, deformity and eventually bone erosion.
As RA is the worse of the two arthritis’, it can often be the most difficult to treat. Here we will discuss the different treatment types and what you can expect from your insurance benefits.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Infusion
There has been no course of treatment that can cure or prevent RA, but there are medications that once diagnosed, help slow the progression of the disease.
The most common treatment is with medications called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs aka, “DMARDs”. DMARDs work to decrease inflammation in the affected joint as well as decrease pain.
They also work in preventing further joint damage and allow continued function.
DMARDs suppress the overactive immune system from attacking the underlying tissue lining of the joints.
And while the treatment is effective, it often takes months to build up in the body’s system.
Unlike other treatments like NSAIDs, oral corticosteroids or pain medications which can provide faster acting pain relief.
Newer to RA treatment is the drug class of Biologics. Biologics are drugs administered to block the inflammatory cytokines (proteins released by the cells) that produce pain.
While Biologics are also considered DMARDs, they are specifically targeted to stop certain steps in the rheumatoid process, whereas DMARDs target the entire immune system.
Patients generally feel better and quicker on Biologics, as they work within a matter of weeks vs a matter of months like with DMARDs.
Additionally, Biologics are generally subcutaneous, meaning they are injected, whereas DMARDs typically come in pill form.
IV Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis infusion treatment is another course of treatment for those suffering from RA. Usually, once an individual has tried and failed the other treatments for RA, a physician will try IV infusion treatments.
Different than pill-form DMARDs or injectable Biologics, IV infusions use TNF inhibitors (Tumor Necrosis Factors) directly into the bloodstream via an IV. TNF’s reduce inflammation and stop the disease’s progression.
Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Covered by Medicare
While rheumatoid arthritis is generally a medical condition covered by Medicare, some of the treatment options can be considered rather costly. If you’re getting a subcutaneous injection or an IV infusion at your physician’s office, this would fall under your Part B Medicare benefits.
Any oral medications used for treatment in RA, such as NSAIDS, oral corticosteroids, and DMARDs medications would fall under your Medicare Part D benefits.
Regardless of whether your treatment includes oral medications in a home setting or injectable or IV treatments in your Rheumatologists office, the medications and treatments can be extremely costly.
Biologics and IV infusions especially can cost upwards of thousands and thousands of dollars a year.
Medicare will only provide 80% coverage on your outpatient services leaving the beneficiary the remaining 20% for them responsible to pay.
Your Medicare Part D coverage will pick up some, if not most of your outpatient medications, but can also leave you paying hundreds of dollars if your physician prescribes a brand name drug.
Either way, you can be left with some hefty OOP costs. As most seniors rely on a fixed income, these monthly costs can be debilitating.
Fast Facts on Rheumatoid Arthritis
As outlined in an article here, here are a few interesting facts regarding this incurable disease.
- RA used to be called the, “wasting disease”, as RA often causes weight loss due to loss of appetite. Additionally, patients used to be, “rail thin”, as exercise was ill-advised and therefore patients muscles atrophied.
- Smoking may trigger RA
- RA risk varies with geography
- Lower amounts of Vitamin D may be linked to risk
- Traffic pollution may play a role in RA
- RA is on the rise among women
- Depression and RA, “travel”, together
- People with RA are at risk for other autoimmune diseases also
- Pregnancy can decrease RA symptoms
- RA can dramatically increase your heart-attack risk
- RA is linked to fibromyalgia
- Research shows that people who drink alcohol are at a lower risk for RA than those who don’t
- The inflammation of RA may increase your risk for type II diabetes
- RA is linked to lung disease