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by Calvagna M

Biologic Agents and the Treatment of Autoimmune Disorders

Image for autoimmune disorder article
The immune system plays a vital role in keeping the body healthy. The system includes blood cells and organs that work to fight and remove germs. Sometimes the immune system misfires. It begins to attack healthy tissue in the body. This is called an autoimmune disorder. Over time this kind of disorder can cause severe damage to tissue such as joints or organs. Treatment may help to slow or stop this process.
Biologic medicine is one part of treatment. This medicine is made with proteins from living cells. It allows the medicine to:

Biologic Agents and the Treatment of Autoimmune Disorders

The biologic agent can limit part of the immune system. This can slow or stop damage to healthy tissue.
Autoimmune disorders that have been treated with biologic agents include:

Side Effects of Biologic Agents

Side effects will depend on:
  • Type of biologic agent
  • Dose—how much of medication you take and how often
  • How it is delivered—injection or through IV
The body’s reaction can also vary. Some possible side effects of biologic therapies include:
  • Infection
  • High blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, muscle and joint aches
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Redness, rash, and/or pain at injection site
  • Headache
  • Allergic reaction
  • Increased risk of Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other types of cancer in children and teens taking TNF inhibitors
  • Possible reactivation of latent tuberculosis infections with TNF inhibitors
If your doctor recommends biologic therapy:
  • Ask about which side effects and complications you may have.
  • Ask if you should be tested for tuberculosis.
  • Tell your doctor if you have a current infection.

A Step Forward in Medicine

Many biologic agents have been approved by the FDA. Many more are being developed.
Examples of Approved Biologic Agents for Autoimmune Disorders
Biologic Agent
Disease State
alefacept
psoriasis
ustekinumab
psoriasis
etanercept
psoriatic arthritis; rheumatoid arthritis; juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and more
adalimumab
rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, psoriasis and more
infliximab
rheumatoid arthritis; Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis
anakinra
rheumatoid arthritis
interferon beta
multiple sclerosis
certolizumab
Crohn's disease; rheumatoid arthritis; psoriatic arthritis
vedolizumab
Crohn's disease; ulcerative colitis

RESOURCES

National Multiple Sclerosis Society
http://www.nationalmssociety.org
National Psoriasis Foundation
http://www.psoriasis.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Healthy U
http://www.healthyalberta.com

References

Autoimmune diseases fact sheet. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/autoimmune-diseases.html. Updated July 16, 2012. Accessed June 24, 2016.
Biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for rheumatoid arthritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 9, 2014. Accessed July 18, 2014.
Donahue KE, Gartlehner G, Jonas DE, et al. Systematic review: comparative effectiveness and harms of disease-modifying medications for rheumatoid arthritis. Ann Intern Med. 2008; 148.
Efalizumab (marketed as Raptiva) information. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm133337.htm. Updated July 10, 2015. Accessed June 24, 2016.
Keystone EC, et al. Once-weekly administration of 50 mg etanercept in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis: results of a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum. 2004;50(2):353-63.
Moderate to severe psoriasis: biologic drugs. National Psoriasis Foundation Web site. Available at: http://www.psoriasis.org/sublearn03%5Fsevere%5Fbiologics. Accessed June 24, 2016.
National drug code directory. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/InformationOnDrugs/ucm142438.htm. Updated April 22, 2016. Accessed June 24, 2016.

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