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Biologics: Definition, Side Effects, Uses & Drug List

What is a biologic drug (biologics)?

  • A biologic drug (biologics) is a product that is produced from living organisms or contain
    components of living organisms.
  • Biologic drugs include a wide variety of
    products derived from human, animal, or microorganisms by using biotechnology.
  • Types of biologic drugs include vaccines, blood, blood components, cells, allergens, genes,
    tissues, and recombinant proteins.
  • Biologic products may contain proteins that
    control the action of other proteins and cellular processes, genes that control
    production of vital proteins, modified human hormones, or cells that produce
    substances that suppress or activate components of the immune system.
  • Biologic drugs are sometimes referred to as biologic response modifiers because they
    change the manner of operation of natural biologic intracellular and cellular

What are the medical uses for biologics?

Biologic drugs are used for treatment of numerous diseases and conditions, and are
the most advanced therapies available. Some biologic drugs are used for the
treatment of Crohn's disease,
ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. Available biologics have revolutionized cancer treatment, delayed or
reversed the course of immune related conditions, changed the lives of people
with rare diseases, and have offered hope for many patients who previously had
no effective treatment options for their condition.

Examples of medical uses for biologic drugs include:


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What are the side effects of biologics?

Side effects of a biologic drug depends on the specific biologic drug, and method of
introduction into the body.

  1. Most biologic drugs have the potential to cause
    allergic hypersensitivity reactions.
  2. Biologic drugs that are used for rheumatoid
    arthritis, psoriasis, and other immune related disorders suppress the immune
    system and increase the risk of infections.
  3. Since some biologic drugs are given
    by injection they also can cause injection site reactions.
  4. Other biologic drugs
    are given intravenously and can cause infusion reactions.

These side effects are compiled from side effects listed for several biologic
drugs. Each type of biologic drug has its own specific side effect profile and
may or may not cause the side effects listed here.

Common side effects of biologic drugs include:

Other side effects of biologic drugs include:

Serious side effects of biologic drugs include:

What preparations are available for biologics?

Biologic drugs are administered by injection or infusion because they are
proteins that are quickly digested and inactivated if given by mouth. Therefore,
biologic drugs are supplied as powders for infusion or solutions for injection.

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Which drugs or supplements interact with biologics?

  • Biologic drugs, for example, adalimubab (Humira), that affect the immune system may interfere
    with the effectiveness of vaccines. Live vaccines, including attenuated
    vaccines, should not be used while patients are being treated with biologics
    that affect the immune system. Patients should complete all recommended
    immunizations prior to receiving these types of biologic drygs. Prescreening for
    dormant tuberculosis (TB) generally
    is recommended.
  • Serious infections are more likely to occur when biologic drugs that suppress the
    immune system are combined with other drugs that also suppress the immune

Are biologics safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?

  • Most biologic drugs have not been adequately studied in
    pregnant women or women
    who are breastfeeding.
  • Some biologics, for example follitropin alpha (Gonal f),
    nivolumab (Opdivo), and pembrolizumab (Keytruda), may be harmful to the fetus
    because of their mechanism of action and the results from animal studies.
  • Some
    biologic drygs may be present in breast milk. Mothers who are breastfeeding should
    decide with their doctors whether or not to stop or discontinue the biologic
    because many drugs are excreted in breast milk and there may present a risk of
    serious adverse effects in the infant.

What brand and generic names are available for biologics?

List of examples of brand and generic biologic drugs available in the US


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