Methotrexate, sold under the brand name Rheumatrex, is a prescription medication originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for fighting cancer. In people with mild cases of lupus, Methotrexate is used to reduce pain and swelling in joints, skin lesions and pleuritis, an infection in the tissue that lines the lungs. Taking Methotrexate may allow you to lower your doses of corticosteroids such as Prednisone.
Methotrexate is an immunomodulator, or in other words, a drug that modulates the immune system. It is an antimetabolite which blocks the synthesis of purine, a protein the body needs in order to produce lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell active in the immune system. Methotrexate is believed to work by interfering with lymphocytes and preventing them from attacking the body in lupus.
How do I take it?
Methotrexate is given weekly, either orally as a tablet or by injection.
Side effects from Methotrexate may be worse among older adults and in those who receive higher doses of the drug.
The most commonly reported side effects of Methotrexate are mouth ulcers, malaise, fatigue, nausea, temporary hair loss, abdominal distress, changes in blood cell count, dizziness, abnormal liver function test results, and lowered resistance to infection.
More serious side effects of Methotrexate may include liver damage and lung infections.
Methotrexate may increase your sensitivity to sunlight. Since sensitivity to sunlight is already a symptom of lupus, take extra precautions to protect your skin when going outside while taking Methotrexate.
For answers to frequently asked questions about exposure to Methotrexate during pregnancy and breastfeeding, visit the experts at MothertoBaby.org.