The immune system plays a vital role in keeping the body healthy. It is made up of a complex network of cells and organs that work together to defend the body against foreign invaders.
While traditional pharmaceuticals are made up of chemicals, biologic agents are actually developed using proteins from living cells. They are designed to act on different parts of the inflammatory system in order to evoke specific, targeted effects.
In autoimmune disorders, the immune system is overactive and destroys not only foreign substances, but also the body’s own tissues. The goal of biologic therapy is to slow or block specific components of the immune system and halt tissue destruction.
Autoimmune disorders treated with biologic agents include:
Side effects depend on many factors such as the type of biologic, dosage, route of administration, schedule, and how your body reacts to the biologic agents. Some possible side effects of biologic therapies are:
Many biologic agents have been approved by the FDA (see the following table), and many more are under development.
Examples of Approved Biologic Agents for Autoimmune Disorders
psoriatic arthritis; rheumatoid arthritis; juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and more
rheumatoid arthritis, crohn's disease, psoriasis and more
rheumatoid arthritis; Crohn’s disease
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
National Psoriasis Foundation
The Arthritis Foundation
Autoimmune diseases fact sheet. WomensHealth.gov website. Available at: http://womenshealt.... Updated August 14, 2010. Accessed August 10, 2012.
Biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for rheumatoid arthritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated June 27, 2012. Accessed August 7, 2012.
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... . Updated August 21, 2008. Accessed August 7, 2012.
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_severe_biologics . Accessed August 7, 2012.
National drug code directory. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/ndc/default.cfm. Updated August 6, 2012. Accessed August 10, 2012.
Last reviewed August 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 8/10/2012
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