A biologic is an important treatment option for people with moderate-to-severe psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, or both. For many people, taking a biologic is life changing because it helps control their symptoms when other treatments failed.
Biologics work by blocking reactions in your body that cause psoriasis and its symptoms. If you have psoriatic arthritis, a biologic can stop the pain, stiffness, and swelling in your joints. It can prevent the arthritis from worsening and causing more damage to your joints. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following biologics to treat adults with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. In many cases, these biologics have been approved to treat both diseases:
It is important to know that no one biologic works for everyone. One biologic could fail to help you, but another could work very well.
Cited from the American Academy of Dermatology
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How are biologics administered?
This varies with the type of biologic. You’ll either get a shot or an infusion (through an IV). Some shots you can give yourself at home, after learning how to give yourself the shot. Infliximab requires an infusion (through an IV), so you’ll need to go to your doctor’s office or an infusion center for treatment.
How often you take the biologic varies from twice a week to once every three months. Your dermatologist will tell you how often you should take it.
What are possible side effects?
Each biologic has its own list of possible side effects. Most are mild and do not cause patients to stop taking the biologic. Some of the more common side effects include:
- Upper respiratory tract infection
- Skin reaction where the biologic is injected
- Flu-like symptoms
- Urinary tract infection
Because the biologics work by calming down part of your immune system, anyone taking a biologic has an increased risk of developing a serious infection. The risk is higher in patients who have diabetes, smoke or chew tobacco, or have a history of infections. Older patients also have a higher risk.
Can I take biologic medications while pregnant or breastfeeding?
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant, let your dermatologist know. Dermatologists watch their patients for signs of problems. You will need to get some tests while taking a biologic; however, you will need fewer tests than when taking another strong psoriasis medicine like cyclosporine or methotrexate.
Are biologics safe?
Overall, the biologics have a good safety record. A patient’s risk of developing a serious infection remains the biggest concern. For this reason, dermatologists carefully screen each patient before prescribing a biologic. You’ll need to have some medical tests before your dermatologist can tell whether a biologic can be prescribed to treat your psoriasis. Blood tests and tuberculosis (TB) testing are typically required. Some patients need additional medical tests.
Are biologics effective?
Studies show that the biologics approved to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can be very effective. For many people with moderate-to-severe psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, a biologic may offer the most effective treatment available. If you take a biologic continuously, it tends to be more effective. Stopping and starting can cause a biologic to lose its effectiveness and may cause certain side effects. It’s also possible for a biologic to stop working after a person takes it for some time. If this happens, another biologic may work. While a biologic can lose its effectiveness over time, studies show that for many people a biologic remains an effective and safe treatment for years.