Methotrexate is a type of drug called an antimetabolite. It treats rheumatoid arthritis by decreasing the activity of your immune system, treats psoriasis by slowing the growth of skin cells and treats cancer by slowing the growth of cancer cells.
METHOTREXATE (METH oh TREX ate) treats inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and psoriasis. It works by decreasing inflammation, which can reduce pain and prevent long-term injury to the joints and skin. It may also be used to treat some types of cancer. It works by slowing down the growth of cancer cells.
This medicine may be used for other purposes; ask your health care provider or pharmacist if you have questions.
COMMON BRAND NAME(S): Rheumatrex, Trexall
They need to know if you have any of these conditions:
Take this medication by mouth with a glass of water. Follow the directions on the prescription label. Take your medication at regular intervals. Do not take it more often than directed. Do not stop taking except on your care team's advice.
Make sure you know why you are taking this medication and how often you should take it. If this medication is used for a condition that is not cancer, like arthritis or psoriasis, it should be taken weekly, NOT daily. Taking this medication more often than directed can cause serious side effects, even death.
Talk to your care team about safe handling and disposal of this medication. You may need to take special precautions.
Talk to your care team about the use of this medication in children. While this medication may be prescribed for selected conditions, precautions do apply.
Overdosage: If you think you have taken too much of this medicine contact a poison control center or emergency room at once.
NOTE: This medicine is only for you. Do not share this medicine with others.
If you miss a dose, talk with your care team. Do not take double or extra doses.
Do not take this medication with any of the following:
This medication may also interact with the following:
This list may not describe all possible interactions. Give your health care provider a list of all the medicines, herbs, non-prescription drugs, or dietary supplements you use. Also tell them if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs. Some items may interact with your medicine.
Avoid alcoholic drinks.
This medication can make you more sensitive to the sun. Keep out of the sun. If you cannot avoid being in the sun, wear protective clothing and use sunscreen. Do not use sun lamps or tanning beds/booths.
You may need blood work done while you are taking this medication.
Call your care team for advice if you get a fever, chills or sore throat, or other symptoms of a cold or flu. Do not treat yourself. This medication decreases your body's ability to fight infections. Try to avoid being around people who are sick.
This medication may increase your risk to bruise or bleed. Call your care team if you notice any unusual bleeding.
Be careful brushing or flossing your teeth or using a toothpick because you may get an infection or bleed more easily. If you have any dental work done, tell your dentist you are receiving this medication.
Check with your care team if you get an attack of severe diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, or if you sweat a lot. The loss of too much body fluid can make it dangerous for you to take this medication.
Talk to your care team about your risk of cancer. You may be more at risk for certain types of cancers if you take this medication.
Do not become pregnant while taking this medication or for 6 months after stopping it. Women should inform their care team if they wish to become pregnant or think they might be pregnant. Men should not father a child while taking this medication and for 3 months after stopping it. There is potential for serious harm to an unborn child. Talk to your care team for more information. Do not breast-feed an infant while taking this medication or for 1 week after stopping it.
This medication may make it more difficult to get pregnant or father a child. Talk to your care team if you are concerned about your fertility.
Side effects that you should report to your care team as soon as possible:
Side effects that usually do not require medical attention (report to your care team if they continue or are bothersome):
This list may not describe all possible side effects. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Keep out of the reach of children and pets.
Store at room temperature between 20 and 25 degrees C (68 and 77 degrees F). Protect from light. Get rid of any unused medication after the expiration date.
Talk to your care team about how to dispose of unused medication. Special directions may apply.
NOTE: This sheet is a summary. It may not cover all possible information. If you have questions about this medicine, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider.
Methotrexate is a kind of drug called a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD). DMARDs can cause gradual and modest weight gain in some people with rheumatoid arthritis. But studies show that other drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis may cause more weight gain. Weight gain is also more likely to affect people who have underweight (BMI less than 18.5) before treatment began.
No, DMARDs aren’t steroids. DMARDs are steroid-sparing drugs, harnessing a lot of the immunomodulatory properties of steroids but without the systemic side effects of corticosteroids. These side effects include weight gain, easy bruising, increased blood sugar and increased blood pressure.
The amount of time it takes for methotrexate to leave your system varies. Taking certain medications may affect the amount of time it takes. Also, if you have reduced kidney function or a disease that causes extra body fluid, it may take longer for the drug to leave your system. However, for most people, the drug will be eliminated within one week of taking your last dose. More specifically, when taken in low doses, it can stay in your system for 16 to 55 hours after your last dose. When taken in high doses, it can stay in your system for 44 to 83 hours after your last dose.
It depends on many factors, including what health condition you’re treating with methotrexate. If you’re taking it to treat rheumatoid arthritis, it won’t begin working immediately. It can take three to six weeks for your symptoms to begin to improve. It may take up to 12 weeks before you notice complete benefits.
If you’re taking methotrexate for psoriasis, you may see improvements in your symptoms in four to six weeks. But it may take up to six months to get complete clearing.
If you’re taking the medication for cancer, it should start working immediately. The methotrexate will help slow down the growth of quickly dividing cancer cells. But it’s hard to say how rapidly it’ll shrink your tumor because everyone responds to medications differently.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Methotrexate is a medication that treats inflammatory arthritis, psoriasis and other inflammatory conditions. It decreases inflammation in your body. This can reduce pain and prevent long-term damage to your joints and skin. It can also slow down the growth of cancer cells to treat cancer. Taking medications can be stressful, but your healthcare provider is there to answer your questions and talk to you about your concerns.
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Note: Introduction and Additional Common Questions written and medically approved by Cleveland Clinic professionals.