Biologics are different from traditional systemic drugs that impact the entire immune system. Biologics only target specific parts of the immune system. The biologics used to treat psoriatic disease block the action of a specific type of immune cell called a T-cell. Or they block proteins in the immune system, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin 17-A or interleukins 12 and 23. These cells and proteins all play a major role in developing psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (PsA).
Biologics such as Enbrel, Humira and Remicade are also considered disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which means they attempt to slow or stop the processes in the body that cause joint damage. They target a cytokine, or protein, called tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) that causes psoriasis and PsA.
Your health care provider can share more information about biologics and if they’re the best treatment for you.
How Are Biologics Used?
Biologics are taken by injection or by IV infusion depending on label. Some injections you may even be able to do at home by yourself or with a family member. Your health care provider will be able to provide you with more information related to your treatment.
Biologics are prescribed for individuals with plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. They are a viable option for those who have not responded to or have experienced harmful side effects from other treatments.
Biologics can have multiple indications. Often, they are indicated for moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, but may include other types of psoriasis and PsA.
Your health care provider can help determine if biologics are the appropriate treatment for you.
Screening for tuberculosis (TB) or other infectious diseases is often required before starting treatment with biologics.
What Are the Risks of Biologics?
Anyone considering taking a biologic should talk with his or her health care provider about the short- and long-term side effects and risks. It is important to weigh the risks against the benefits of using the drugs.
Biologics can increase the risk of infection. If you develop any sign of an infection, such as a fever, cough or flu-like symptoms, you should contact your health care provider right away.
Using Biologics with Other Psoriasis Treatments
All the current biologics can be used with other treatments such as phototherapy or topicals, though using phototherapy along with Remicade may increase your skin cancer risk.
Cimzia, Enbrel, Humira and Remicade are shown to be safe and effective when taken with methotrexate. Talk to your health care provider about whether using any other treatments with a biologic is right for you.