A Biologics FAQ

Erica Sanderson | Nov 21, 2014 Nov 17, 2016

1 of 9
1 of 9

What are biologics?

Biologics are a class of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) drugs that target agents of the immune response that cause inflammation, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha).   Biologic agents are genetically engineered from living organisms. They release antibodies to attach to substances that trigger inflammation in the body, such as enzymes and proteins.

2 of 9

How are they administered?

Biologics are taken by either injection or intravenously (IV). The frequency and duration of taking biologics differs for each person and is determined by working closely with health care professionals.

3 of 9

Who can take biologics?

Patients with moderate to severe IBD. New research is starting to show biologics may help earlier on in treatment—not only as an option after other conventional treatments fail. Patients should be screened for infections prior to starting biologics to reduce potential risk. People with tuberculosis, heart failure, or multiple sclerosis should not take biologics.

4 of 9

What are the side effects?

Since biologics suppress the immune system, there are a range of potential side effects, most notably infections. These types of infections include urinary and upper respiratory. In rare cases, increased risk of cancer has been reported. Other common side effects include rash, nausea, headache, pain or swelling at injection site, hives and fever. If you experience any side effects, speak to your doctor.

5 of 9

How effective are they?

How well someone responds to biologics varies by person. In general, people with more severe stages of IBD have experienced very positive results from using biologics. They have been proven to obtain and maintain remission in some patients. However, biologics may not work for everyone. Speak to your doctor to learn more.

6 of 9

Do biologics increase the risk of cancer?

In some instances, the use of biologic drugs may increase the risk of getting certain cancers. Studies have, for instance, shown an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and skin cancer. However, the risk of getting cancer due biologics treatment is still small and should be weighed against the potential benefits.

7 of 9

How are biologics different from regular drugs?

While drugs are made from chemical substances within known structures, biologics are more complex mixtures. They’re heat-sensitive and can be contaminated by bacteria so the manufacturing process is different as well. Inside the body, biologics target specific parts of the immune system whereas traditional medications affect the entire immune system.

8 of 9

Who regulates biologics?

In the U.S., The Food and Drug Administration is in charge of reviewing, approving and the oversight of biologic drugs. Companies who develop, manufacture and distribute biologics must meet the requirements established by either the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) or the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER).

9 of 9

How much do biologics cost?

Biologics are relatively expensive compared to other drugs. As a newer class of treatment, costs to make the drug can be high due to the the complexity involved in manufacturing. There are also no generic alternatives. Biologic drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, cost about $1,000 to $3,000 a month, according to WebMD. The drugs are often covered by insurance though so check with your provider.

NEXT: 6 Ways to Prepare for a Crohn's Flare
More on this topic

IBD: Confidence Breeds Healthy Relations

Brian Greenberg

10 Questions to Ask About Crohn's

Erica Sanderson

6 Steps to Prepare for a Crohn's Flare

Sara Suchy

IBD Patients: 'The Best Advice I Ever Got'

Jackie Zimmerman

8 Ways To Be A Champion Of Your IBD

Brian Greenberg

Tackling IBD 12 Weeks at a Time

Brian Greenberg

Swimming With IBD: Kathleen Baker

Brian Greenberg

Getting an IBD Diagnosis

Jennifer Rackley

Being High Maintenance with IBD

Brian Greenberg

Living With IBD Every Day

Brian Greenberg

Are You Exercising with IBD? You Should Be

Jennifer Rackley

10 Things Not to Say to Someone With Crohn's

Jennifer Rackley

Tips to Make Infusions for Crohn's Easier

Jennifer Rackley

Biologics and Crohn's Disease

Dr. Constance Pietrzak, MD

How to Find a Support Group

Brian Greenberg

Eliminating Restaurant Worry with IBD

Brian Greenberg

Keeping Crohn's Nutrition Goals

Jennifer Rackley

Hair Loss with IBD?

Jennifer Rackley

Tackling an Ironman with IBD

Erica Sanderson

Handling a Crohn's Flare After Remission

Erica Sanderson

5 Signs It's Time to Switch Biologics

Erica Sanderson

Can Going Gluten-Free Help IBD?

Jennifer Rackley

10 Changes to Consider with Crohn's Disease

Jennifer Rackley

How Biologics Treat Crohn's

Erica Sanderson

Relationship Essentials for Living with IBD

Jackie Zimmerman

How to Manage Crohn's Flares

Erica Sanderson

Foods to Avoid with Crohn's

Erica Sanderson

How Crohn's Affects the Body (Infographic)

Amanda Page

Know Your Treatment Options

Erica Sanderson

Gut-Friendly Foods to Keep in Your Diet

Elizabeth Roberts

How Stress Can Worsen Crohn's

Cindy Haines, M.D.

Fats for Crohn's Gut Health

Jennifer Rackley

Natalie Hayden of Lights Camera Crohn's

Jennifer Rackley

Crohn's: Promising New Study on Preventing Strictures

Jennifer Rackley

IBD Can Be a Good Thing

Brian Greenberg

Crohn's Disease: Two Subtypes Discovered by Researchers

Jennifer Rackley

Have IBD? Here Are 7 Ways to Improve Your Life Now

Brian Greenberg

Anal Fistulas: The Symptom No One Talks About

Brian Greenberg