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Biologic Agents and the Treatment of Autoimmune Disorders

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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:

The body’s reaction can also vary. Some possible side effects of biologic therapies include:

If your doctor recommends biologic therapy:

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






psoriatic arthritis; rheumatoid arthritis; juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and more


rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, psoriasis and more


rheumatoid arthritis; Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis


rheumatoid arthritis

interferon beta

multiple sclerosis


Crohn's disease; rheumatoid arthritis; psoriatic arthritis


Crohn's disease; ulcerative colitis


National Multiple Sclerosis Society

National Psoriasis Foundation


Health Canada

Healthy U


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Efalizumab (marketed as Raptiva) information. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: 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: Accessed June 24, 2016.

National drug code directory. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: Updated April 22, 2016. Accessed June 24, 2016.

Last reviewed June 2018 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 7/3/2018