Cotrimoxazole treatment for rheumatoid arthritis

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2001 Oct;31(2):133-41. doi: 10.1053/sarh.2001.27734.


Objectives: To review the literature on the immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties of cotrimoxazole (CTX)-a combination of sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim, to summarize the use of this medication in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, to stimulate and renew the interest of both physicians and researchers in this possible therapy for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and to inspire further investigation in this field.

Methods: A MEDLINE search of the literature from 1966 until 2000 was performed, and information about the pharmacology of CTX and its use in the therapy of rheumatic diseases was critically reviewed.

Results: RA treatment is associated with numerous problems such as lack of efficacy, frequent side effects, and high cost. Analysis of the relevant literature revealed that experience with CTX in the treatment of RA is limited. However, the results of several nonrandomized and evidently forgotten clinical trials and laboratory investigations suggested that CTX might serve as an effective and inexpensive therapy for RA. Several lines of evidence suggested that CTX has nonspecific anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. Although nausea and vomiting were common reasons for CTX withdrawal, they were noted in only some studies, and no major organ toxicity was observed.

Conclusions: Because of its therapeutic qualities, low cost, and relative nontoxicity, CTX seems to warrant a role in the treatment of RA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antirheumatic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Immune System / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination / pharmacology
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination