Gold for therapeutic purposes

Author: Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer, 2003.


Gold compounds are primarily used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, they may be useful in the treatment of some skin diseases, including pemphigus vulgaris, epidermolysis bullosa acquisita, and severe or resistant cutaneous lupus erythematosus.

Another name for gold tablets administered orally is auranofin. The trade name in New Zealand is Ridaura®. Gold injection, known as sodium aurothiomalate, is also available.

How to use gold compounds

Gold compounds should only be used by a doctor experienced in its use, as the risk of toxicity is high and side effects potentially dangerous. It is essential that treatment with the drug is not more disabling then the disease it is being used to treat.

Prior to starting treatment with gold compounds a routine baseline assessment should include:

Regular monitoring of these should continue throughout treatment.

Similar doses to those used for treating rheumatoid arthritis are given. If there is no improvement by the time the total dose reaches 1g treatment should be stopped.

Contraindications to gold

Gold compounds should not be used under the following circumstances:

Precautions when prescribing gold

Before starting treatment with gold compounds, the following should be considered:

Side effects of gold compounds

In addition to their helpful effects, gold compounds may also cause many side effects, some of which can be serious. These include:

Drug interactions with gold compounds

There is very little specific information about interactions of gold compounds with other drugs. However, the potential for increasing gold toxicity is great, particularly when given with other drugs that have an effect on the renal, hepatic and blood systems. Such medicines include penicillamine, aminoglycosides, amphotericin B, penicillins, phenylbutazone, phenytoin, sulfonamides, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS), aciclovir and alcohol.

Related information

Email Newsletter

Would you like to receive our dermatology updates by email?


Submit your images

We're seeking high-quality photos of skin diseases.  


Machine diagnosis

Watch DermNet's proposal to create a 'Skin Disease Image Recognition Tool' - winner of the 2017 'Clinicians' Challenge Active Award' by the NZ Ministry of Health and HiNZ.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
DermNet NZ Newsletter