Leflunomide is a disease-modifying drug that is used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Leflunomide reduces inflammation in the joints that is responsible for both the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and the destruction of joints. This reduces symptoms as well as the progressive deformities of the joints caused by the arthritis. Leflunomide reduces inflammation by suppressing the activity of immune cells responsible for the inflammation. Leflunomide suppresses immune cells by inhibiting dihydroorotate dehydrogenase, an enzyme that is necessary for the production of DNA and RNA. Without DNA and RNA the immune cells (and most other types of cells) cannot multiply or function (or exist). Because of its unique and different mechanism of action, leflunomide is of value when added to other medications used for treating rheumatoid arthritis.
Leflunomide is an anti-inflammatory medication that is known as a disease modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) because it not only decreases the pain and swelling of arthritis but may also decrease damage to joints and long-term disability. Leflunomide is a Disease Modifying Anti Rheumatic Drug (DMARD) designed specifically to treat inflammatory arthritis. Leflunomide is used to treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and may also be combined with methotrexate therapy.
Leflunomide works by blocking the production of white blood cells, which are needed to cause inflammation in the joints (and thus interferes with the progression of the disease). Because it blocks the natural response of the immune system, leflunomide is considered an immunosuppressive medication. Leflunomide can improve symptoms, slow or prevent the disease from getting worse, and improve function in people with rheumatoid arthritis. It also seems to be well-tolerated, and slows disease progression as seen on X-rays. Leflunomide appears to be beneficial when used alone or in combination (combination therapy) with methotrexate, another DMARD. Leflunomide interferes with the formation of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which is important for developing cells, such as those in the immune system. However, it is not completely clear how this medication works in rheumatoid arthritis.