Rayos (Prednisone) and Medrol (Methylprednisolone)

How to choose between arthritis medications

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In the United States, 23% of all adults, or more than 54 million people, have arthritis—a disease that causes inflammation in the joints. Many of them turn to medications to help relieve pain and inflammation and improve their quality of life.

Corticosteroids—often referred to as “steroids”—can reduce inflammation and therefore the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. Rayos (prednisone) and Medrol (methylprednisolone) are two types of steroids that are commonly prescribed to treat arthritis pain and inflammation. They can also both be used to treat allergies and asthma. Rayos and Medrol are tablets that must be taken according to the specific instructions and timing outlined by your doctor. 

woman receiving arthritis medication from a pharmacist

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How Prednisone and Methylprednisone Are Similar

Prednisone and methylprednisolone are both corticosteroids. This class of medication is used to treat arthritis and other conditions including allergies and asthma. 

Corticosteroids are meant to mimic the actions of cortisol, a steroid that is naturally produced by the body in response to stress. When they are used in people with arthritis, corticosteroids:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Suppress the immune system

This is helpful because arthritis is thought to be caused in part by an over-activation of the immune system. 

Corticosteroids can be taken by:

  • Mouth
  • Injected
  • Applied to the skin

Rayos and Medrol are both tablets that are taken by mouth at least once per day. It’s important to follow those instructions exactly. In most cases, your doctor will tell you to taper your dose, gradually reducing it until you are no longer on the medications.

How Prednisone and Methylprednisone Are Different

Prednisone and methylprednisone act on the body in very similar ways. The biggest difference between the medications are in regards to dosage and how they are administered.

  • Rayos is a delayed-release prednisone tablet that is available in 1, 2, or 5 milligram doses.
  • Medrol is a tablet of methylprednisolone available as 2, 4, 8, 16 or 32-milligram doses. Methylprednisone is a stronger medication than prednisone, so in general, smaller doses are used.


When you’re considering whether to take Rayos or Medrol, it’s important to consider that Rayos is a delayed-release tablet. For many people, that means that Rayos can be taken once-daily, while Medrol may require more than one dose per day.

Rayos is formulated to take effect during the night. That’s when cells called cytokines, which can contribute to inflammation, become most active. Because of this approach, some people experience a better reduction of inflammation taking Rayos than they do while taking Medrol. Others may prefer Rayos because they only need to take one pill a day, rather than multiple.

Is It Safe to Take Prednisone and Methylprednisone?

Prednisone and methylprednisone were both approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the 1950s, and have been used since. They are both considered safe drugs, especially when they’re used in the short term.

However, there are risks involved with taking corticosteroids, including Rayos and Medrol, especially when they’re used for a long period of time. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of using either medication long-term to manage your arthritis. 

Combining Steroid Medications

In most cases, a person should only take one type of steroid medication, so it’s unlikely that you would take prednisone and methylprednisone at the same time.

Always talk with your doctor about all medications that you’re taking, including over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and supplements. Even these substances can interact with corticosteroids.

In most cases, a person should only take one type of steroid medication, so it’s unlikely that you would take prednisone and methylprednisone at the same time. Always talk with your doctor about all medications that you’re taking, including over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and supplements. Even these substances can interact with corticosteroids.

People who are taking prednisone and methylprednisone for arthritis should talk to their doctor about the interactions between these corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications, known as NSAIDs.

NSAIDs include prescription medications like:

  • Indocin
  • Ibuprofen

If you’re taking both corticosteroids and NSAIDs, you could increase your risk for gastrointestinal bleeding, a side effect of NSAIDs.

Corticosteroid Warnings

Rayos and Medrol share many of the same side effects. In the short-term, side effects include:

  • Stomach upset
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Facial hair growth, especially for women
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk for infection


Occasionally, people on prednisone and methylprednisone can experience serious side effects. You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Skin rashes
  • Swelling
  • Vision changes
  • Vomiting, nausea or tarry stools, which can indicate internal bleeding

If you use corticosteroids for a long-time, they can affect your body’s natural production of steroids. Because of that, you’ll have to taper off the synthetic steroids slowly to avoid complications.

A Word From Verywell

Dealing with the pain from arthritis can be very challenging. If you have arthritis, you’ll need to work with your doctor to develop a pain-management regimen that provides you relief, without exposing you to long-term side effects. 

Rayos and Medrol provide similar relief for arthritis symptoms since both mimic the naturally-occurring steroid cortisol. Your doctor can help you determine whether one or the other might provide better relief in your specific case. If you’re considering a steroid medication like Rayos and Medrol, be sure to talk to your doctor about side effects and work on a plan to only use the medications for a short period of time.

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Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis. Updated November 2, 2020.

  2. MedlinePlus. Prednisone. Updated November 15, 2020. 

  3. University of Washington Medicine: Orthopedic and Sports Medicine. Corticosteroids for arthritis.

  4. University of Washington Medicine: Orthopedic and Sports Medicine. Corticosteroids for arthritis.

  5. DailyMed. Rayos. Updated September 16, 2020.

  6. MedlinePlus. Methylprednisolone. Updated September 15, 2017.

  7. Food and Drug Administration. Highlights of prescribing information: Rayos.