Myths and Misperceptions about Biologics

Lene Andersen | Nov 3rd 2016 Feb 15th 2017

1 of 13
1 of 13

Many misperceptions about Biologics

Biologics are a relatively new class of drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They are highly complex medications and have many myths and misunderstandings about them. These may contribute to people with RA not getting the treatment that can help them. This slideshow aims to clear up the misperceptions so you can make better treatment decisions.

2 of 13

Biologics are poison

The notion that Biologics are toxic is not true. They are genetically modified drugs that suppress the immune system and therefore RA. The idea that they are poison may have come from people referring to them as chemotherapy to help others understand the seriousness of RA and the treatments. Although Biologics are immunosuppressants, they are not as intense a medication as the type used for chemotherapy in cancer.

3 of 13

Biologics are scary

Biologics are a serious medication for a serious disease and do have the potential for severe side effects. It’s important to face that fact as you consider Biologics, just as you should when considering any medication, all of which also have the potential for serious side effects. It is also important to remember that the serious side effects are rare. Most people do well on Biologics.

4 of 13

Biologics give you cancer

Since Biologics first became available, cancer has been listed as a possible rare side effect. TNF-inhibitors were thought to have the potential for causing lymphoma, but recent research has shown that this is not so, after all. When looking at the pros and cons of taking Biologics, keep in mind that untreated RA brings with it an increased risk of developing lymphoma.

5 of 13

Someone had a bad reaction, so I don’t want to take Biologics

We all react differently to medication. You may do well, while someone else won’t respond as well or may have a lot of side effects. Biologics do have the potential for serious adverse effects, but it’s a potential, not a certainty. It can be scary to read the list of side effects for the medication, but remember that it’s required to list every one that occurred during testing, even if only one person experienced it.

6 of 13

The side effects are worse than the disease

This myth shows a lack of understanding of RA. It’s a systemic illness, the effects of which can be severe. RA inflammation affects the joints and many other areas of the body. Untreated RA can cause problems with your heart, kidneys, lungs, eyes, and much more, as well as reduce your life expectancy. You have to weigh the potential for medication side effects with the certainty of “side effects” of untreated RA.

7 of 13

My body has too many other issues to risk Biologics

Worrying about developing additional physical problems is understandable. Before you reject the possibility of Biologics, you may want to consider the cause of your existing health condition. They could be related to having active RA, as the inflammation can affect many systems in the body. Therefore, treating RA also could end up having a positive impact on other medical issues.

8 of 13

Biologics will make me gain weight

Some people who take Biologics have reported gaining weight on these medications, even though this is not listed as an official side effect. One reason for weight gain can be improved health. Pain and fatigue can affect the appetite, as well as be a drain on the body. However, research also has indicated that Biologics, especially TNF inhibitors, may cause weight gain.

9 of 13

Biologics quickly stop working

Some people do very well on one drug for over a decade or more. In others, the immune system seems to find a way around Biologics within the number of months or years so a particular drug stops working, and they need to try another one. This may happen several times. There are almost a dozen Biologics available and many more in development. Although this experience can be frustrating, there are options for treatment.

10 of 13

Biologics are too expensive for most people

Biologics are very expensive, costing thousands of dollars a year. If you don’t have insurance, there are financial assistance programs that can help fund these medications. Pharmaceutical companies have created support programs that can help with the cost as well. If you qualify, you may end up paying nothing or only a small co-pay amount.

11 of 13

They sound like GMOs

Biologics are genetically modified proteins that target inflammatory processes. You could say that they are not “natural,” but then, neither is pretty much anything else in our world. So many foods and products have additives and preservatives, and fruits and vegetables are no longer identical to what they were thirty years ago. RA is a malfunction of your immune system. To combat that, you need a substance your immune system can’t subdue.

12 of 13

Doctors are pushing Biologics

Doctors may encourage you to take a Biologic, but it’s not because they are “agents of big Pharma.” Simply said, Biologics work. They have had a revolutionary impact, making remission possible, changing RA to an increasingly invisible illness, and increasing life expectancy. By stopping the damage RA can cause, they have allowed people to live largely normal lives, including participating in sports. 

13 of 13

Educate yourself

We each decide how we approach living with RA. Ultimately, the decision is up to you and has to feel comfortable for you. When considering Biologics, researching your concerns to find out if they are based in myth or fact can do much to ease your worries. You should also discuss any questions with your rheumatologist to make sure that you feel comfortable with the road you take.

NEXT: 10 Lessons Learned from Using Biologics
More on this topic

RA Resolutions for the Holidays and Beyond!

Marianna Paulson

A Profile of Mariah Leach: Mom, Blogger, Bicyclist

Lene Andersen

How I Learned to Redefine Myself as an Athlete with RA

Anna Legassie

Do Not Be Afraid to File for FMLA

Vanessa Collins

10 Best Ways to Distract Yourself from Pain

Lene Anderson

What's Causing Your RA Fatigue?

Lene Andersen

How to Get Mobile after Surgery

Marianna Paulson

The Struggles of Finding a Job with RA

Leslie Rott

The Must-Read Guide to Biologics

Lene Andersen

How a Dietitian Can Help with RA

Lene Andersen

Winter and RA: Surviving the Cold

Lene Andersen

Practical Tips for Managing RA Pain

Britt J Johnson

A Beginner's Guide to Biologics

Lene Andersen

10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About RA

Lene Andersen

How to Reinvent Yourself

Lene Andersen

10 Essential Relationship Tips with RA

Lene Andersen

How to Find a Rheumatologist?

Lene Andersen

Getting a Total Hip Replacement with RA

Lene Andersen

Joy as a Coping Tool for Chronic Conditions

Lene Andersen

Which Doctor Do You Really Need?

Lene Andersen

What to Know About Using Biologics

Lene Andersen

Eye Health and Aging

Lisa Emrich

Finding Support Online

Vanessa Collins

How to Have a Good Planning System

Marianna Paulson

Changing RA Treatments

Lisa Emrich

"I'm Fine" (AKA I'm Most Definitely Not Fine)

Britt J Johnson

8 Facts About RA and Heart Disease

Allison Tsai

Yes, You Can Garden with RA

Marianna Paulson

How Do Biologics Treat RA?

Allison Tsai

Custom Orthotics Soothe RA Feet

Vanessa Collins

4 Surprising Joints Affected by RA

Lene Andersen

Complement Your RA Treatment with These Awesome Therapies

Amanda Page

Do You Know How to Manage Your RA Pain?

Allison Tsai

Tips for Traveling with RA

Lene Andersen

Simple Exercises for All Levels of RA

Allison Tsai

Finding a Good Doctor

Leslie Rott

10 Reasons I'm Thankful for My Chronic Illness

Lene Andersen

Different Types of RA

Mark Borigini, M.D.

Wrist splints pros and cons

Christine Miller

What Are the Extra-articular Effects of RA?

Lene Andersen

Biologics Q&A with Dr. Peng

Yumhee Park

Study Finds Possible RA Trigger in Gut Bacteria

Lene Andersen

How to Get a Disability Parking Permit for Your Car

Lene Andersen

How Micael Kuluva Keeps RA Fashionable

Lene Andersen

Emotional Impact of Side Effects from RA Meds

Lene Andersen

Becoming Empowered With RA

Britt J Johnson

Lene's Update on Life with RA

Finding Joy in Life with RA

Lene Andersen