Patients living with rheumatoid arthritis have many choices when it comes to medication designed to prevent inflammation and further joint damage. In this post we will be discussing the biologic drugs, or “biologics.” Protein-based and derived from living cells cultured in a laboratory, biologics target specific parts of the immune system rather than the entire immune system as do the traditional systemic drugs (ie. methotrexate, sulfasalazine, cyclosporine).
The biologics (often monoclonal antibodies) act by blocking the action of a specific type of immune cell (T-cell or B-cell lymphocytes) or by blocking proteins in the immune system such as interleukin-1, interleukin-6, or tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). These cells and proteins play major roles in the development of inflammatory autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
As an RA patient who also has multiple sclerosis (MS), I cannot use one of the anti-TNF drugs as they are contraindicated in patients with known demyelinating diseases such as MS. Because of this I had not thoroughly researched them before, but with the approvals of Cimzia, Simponi and Actemra, it seems to be a good time to learn how the drugs compare.
Read this post in its entirety:
Biologic Medications for RA: The Big Picture
(This is the first post in a 3-part series.)