Injectable Methotrexate

It’s great having few side effects from methotrexate.  I recall how nervous I was about starting this medication, and how sick I was the first couple weeks (despite a low dose).  Thanks to AF’s RA support board, I’d already known that side effects can be minimized by taking pills at bedtime (which lets you sleep through the majority of the nausea).  It was great to discover first-hand that it’s true when they say that side-effects diminish over time – your body gets used to the med and it doesn’t continue to make you sick.  What a relief!

I started taking methotrexate as tablets.  My starting dose was four pills (10 mg).  Then I increased to six pills (15 mg), then to eight (20 mg).  Now my rheumatologist has again increased the dose and also switched me to injectable.  25 mg equals 1 cc in the syringe.

I thought, being experienced with the injectable biologics, that injectable mtx would be the same.  It’s not.

Injectable mtx is stable at room temperature, so it can be kept in the cupboard, unlike biologics that need to be stored in the refrigerator.  Since my refrigerator always seems to have way too much stuff in it, it’s nice to keep the mtx in my cupboard.  A bonus benefit is that this should make the mtx easier to take along on trips, should the need ever arise.

Unlike the huge space-eating boxes that biologics come in, the vials of mtx are small.  Two of the 2 ml vials fit into a regular sized prescription bottle.  Even the 10 ml vial is about the size of a standard prescription bottle.

A large part of the difference is that my biologics have all come in pre-filled syringes with an attached hypodermic needle.  I open the box, remove the medicine, let it warm up briefly, then give the shot.  It’s quite simple.  In contrast, injectable mtx comes in a little vial with separate syringes/needles, and I have to draw it up myself.  It’s not difficult.  My pharmacist was kind enough to give me a demonstration and then let me practice (with a vial of plain water) instead of sending me home to figure it out on my own.

Appearance of the medication is different, too, and I think this is where I’m running into problems.  My biologics have all been clear, looking a bit like water:  familiar, harmless.  Injectable mtx, on the other hand, is bright yellow.  BRIGHT YELLOW!!!  Really, I’m supposed to put that in my body?!  I’m having a little trouble wrapping my head around this one.

In some ways, the injections are even easier than the pills.  Pills are supposed to be taken on an empty stomach, but injections can be done any time of day, without regard to when you last ate.

I also read somewhere (sorry, no link), that sometimes injecting a medicine (bypassing the stomach) can make it easier on your liver.  My liver needs to last many years yet, so I’m in favor of making things easier on it.

Another advantage is that bypassing the stomach is supposed to make the medication more effective.  Who could object to that?

I’m open to tips if anyone has ideas on getting past the concept of injecting that bright yellow stuff into my stomach.

Thank you for reading.

 *With needles, a bigger number means a smaller needle diameter.  A 27 gauge needle is 0.01625 inches (0.4128 mm).  A 25 gauge needle is 0.02025 inches (0.5144 mm).  Not a huge difference, but definitely noticeable when that thing is poking through your skin!


4 thoughts on “Injectable Methotrexate

  1. First, here’s hoping that the regimine will bring additional rewards. The first injections I ever had to give myself were blood thinners (Lovenox)for a week after my hip replacement. Like some of the biologics, they had to be injected into the abdomen. They didn’t really hurt, but I had a hard time watching/making myself stick a needle into my stomach. There is just something inherently wrong about that (like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane). So I appreciate the qualms you’re having.

    When I first started on biologics (about three years ago now) I was a bit panicked about whether it would hurt and how I was going to live having to do regular injections. I ran across a blog (can’t tell you which one now) where the author provided a little chant she did while the injection was happening — keeping her mind off any discomfort. It was something like, “My toes won’t hurt, my ankles won’t hurt, my knees won’t hurt, my hips won’t hurt, etc etc etc all the way up to her neck.” Perhaps if you tried something like that while you’re doing the injection, that might help as well.

    Good luck!

  2. Someone on a forum suggested thinking of it as injecting bright, healing sunshine. Think of happy things like yellow balloons, sunflowers, little yellow goldfinches, … whatever makes you smile. If nothing else, the good thoughts may lift your mood some!

  3. I’m on injectable MTX, too—and I’ve definitely noticed I experience fewer of the side effects than I did on the pills.

    The colour was rough for me to get used to as well, but it doesn’t sting like Enbrel does, so I try to count my blessings on that one. Good luck!

  4. That neon yellow threw me for a loop too! I was told I could inject in my leg or stomach. I chose to alternate thighs. Mtx worked amazingly well for me for 6 months…then I got pneumonia and had to stop treatment for 2 weeks…it didn’t work again after that. Can’t afford the biologics or the $400 walk in the door, talk to the Rheum for 5 minutes fee either…sigh. Hoping for a long successful mtx treatment for you!

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