How Do Biologics Work?
Currently, the largest blockbuster drug in America, with about $110 billion dollars in total sales is called Humira (Adalimumab). Humira and an older variation called Remicade are considered the frontline and gold standard treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis) along with a host of other autoimmune conditions. The drug is a human manufactured antibody which selectively inhibits a key component of the immune system called Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNF). TNF is involved with the systemic acute-phase inflammatory response and is produced primarily by macrophages, a type of white blood cell. Simply TNF is a primary and secondary factor in protecting the body against foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, and fungal parasites and additionally plays a role in the body’s prevention of cancer by causing early cancerous cells to die. For those biology nerds out there, here is graphic:
Considerations to discuss with your doctor
Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are believed to be caused in part by overactivity of TNF and from a scientific standpoint, it makes logical sense that by blocking TNF, the disease would be lessened. This seems accurate given the numerous studies that suggest the vast success of biologics including Humira and Remicade. Even for mild to moderate cases of IBD, biologics are often used, and although severe side effects are rare, the risks are something that you and your physician should consider together before going on the medication.
Here are some considerations to discuss with your doctor:
1) There can be serious allergic reactions to the medication, including the development of Lupus (an autoimmune condition) – like symptoms.