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The Biologic Era

February 22, 2013 at 8:38 AM

Eyanson_Article.jpgby Steven Eyanson, MD

A new era in treatment options is occurring today. Few advancements are changing patient care as much as the development of biologic agents.

A working definition of a biologic agent is an engineered medication made in a living organism and used to treat a medical problem in a different organism. Classic examples of biologic agents are common vaccines. Many antibodies and proteins have been designed to treat specific illnesses.  More than ten biologics are used in rheumatology to treat conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, gout, spondylitis, systemic lupus, osteoporosis, and psoriasis.

This development comes from the growing scientific knowledge of disease processes allowing more targeted treatments.

A partial list of biologic agents used in rheumatology includes Remicade, Enbrel, Humira, Orencia, Rituxan, Cimzia, Simponi, Prolia, Benlysta and Kryxsterra. Many others are under development and are used in therapy trials.

For rheumatoid arthritis, these medications reduce disability, prevent joint deformity, and improve the mortality and morbidity associated with the disease. Patients may live longer and better.

Biologic agents cannot cure rheumatoid arthritis or other rheumatic diseases, but can improve about two thirds of treated patients and more frequently result in remission, unlike traditional therapies.

They are expensive and may increase the chances of serious infection or potential side effects. They are generally not used in combination because in some instances there is increased likelihood of greater risk.

As we further understand the biology of disease processes, use of biologics will improve care for nearly all areas of medicine.

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To contact Dr. Eyanson or Physicians' Clinic of Iowa—Rheumatology at (319) 398-1546.

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