Understanding Biologics

By Carol Marston, Lead Nurse – Biologics

What Are Biologics?

Biologic drugs, commonly known as biologics, are a class of medications derived from living systems such as microorganisms, plant cells, or animal cells. These therapies are developed and produced in biologically active systems (live cell systems), making them protein-based drugs that are significantly larger and more structurally complex than small molecule (chemically based) drugs.

Biologics are employed to treat a wide array of conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. More recently, some biologics have been introduced to treat asthma.

Understanding Biologics

How Do Biologics Work?

Biologic drugs are designed to target and prevent specific reactions within the body, effectively halting the inflammatory process. Most biologics focus on specific parts of the immune system, and they can be categorised into several types:

  • Anti-TNF (Tumour Necrosis Factor) Drugs: TNF is a protein that plays a role in the immune system. In certain individuals, the immune system produces excessive levels of this protein, leading to inflammation associated with various conditions. Anti-TNF drugs target and neutralise this protein, preventing inflammation.
  • Interleukin Blockers: These biologics interrupt messenger cells within the immune system, blocking inflammatory messages and thereby reducing inflammation.
  • B Cell Inhibitors: By preventing cells from binding, these drugs interrupt inflammatory signals, mitigating the inflammatory response.
  • Selective Co-Stimulatory Modulators: These biologics act as secondary signal blockers, preventing two cells from binding together and triggering the inflammatory pathway.

Side Effects of Biologics

Like all medications, biologics can cause side effects, which can vary in severity. Common side effects include injection site reactions, flu-like symptoms, itching or rash, nausea, and vomiting. Other potential side effects include headache, muscle aches, fever, and insomnia. Less commonly, biologics can lead to serious infections. Since biologics suppress the immune system, patients may be more susceptible to infections such as upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and skin infections.

Benefits of Biologics

Biologics offer several significant benefits, including:

  • Targeted Treatment: Biologics are designed to reach specific cells or pathways within the immune system, ensuring a precise treatment approach that minimises the risk to healthy cells or tissues.
  • Improved Quality of Life: By effectively managing chronic conditions, biologics can help patients regain a normal lifestyle, significantly improving their overall quality of life.

Biologics represent a groundbreaking advancement in medical treatment, offering hope and improved outcomes for patients with chronic and debilitating conditions. At LloydsPharmacy Clinical Homecare, we are dedicated to providing expert care and support to our patients, helping them navigate their treatment journey with biologics.