Arthritis: Biologics and Biosimilars

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the most common types of inflammatory arthritis. The cause of RA isn’t known, although experts believe it’s an autoimmune disease that occurs when your immune system begins to attack the joints. If you’re diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, your physician will likely refer you to a rheumatologist.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the most common types of inflammatory arthritis. The cause of RA isn’t known, although experts believe it’s an autoimmune disease that occurs when your immune system begins to attack the joints. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include joint pain, swelling and stiffness. At first, rheumatoid arthritis usually only attacks a few joints, but over time it affects more. Many people experience worse RA pain in the morning or after they’ve been sitting or lying down for awhile. It can also cause fatigue. If you’re diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, your physician will likely refer you to a rheumatologist.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

Early treatment is important as it can make the disease more likely to go into remission. Unlike some other types of arthritis, the chronic swelling from RA can cause permanent damage to the joints. RA is also linked to heart disease. Rheumatoid arthritis treatments include disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), analgesics (painkillers) and biologics (medications produced from living organisms or components of living organisms).

Biologic drugs are more complex to produce than conventional medicines because they are usually made from living materials such as human, animal and bacteria cells. Biosimilars are a cheaper alternative to biologics that more patients are choosing today. These drugs are very similar to a biologic drug - they are not exactly the same, but they work in the same way. To be approved, the biosimilar drug must be highly similar to an approved biologic product, and be as safe and effective. If you’re already taking a biologic drug, the biosimilar might not work as well, or could cause side effects. Your physician or rheumatologist can help you decide if biosimilars are right for you.

If you aren’t responding to first-line rheumatoid arthritis therapies, then your rheumatologist may be looking at offering you a second-line therapy. Second-line therapies are a major advance to the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and may be pills, injections under the skin or intravenous infusions.

Talk to your rheumatologist if you'd like more information on biosimilars. 

Visit HealthChoicesFirst.com for more videos and resources on arthritis.

Print this Action Plan and check off items that you want to discuss with your healthcare provider

  • Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include joint pain, swelling and stiffness.

  • At first, rheumatoid arthritis usually only attacks a few joints, but over time it affects more.

  • Early treatent is important as it can make the disease more likely to go into remission.

  • Unlike some other types of arthritis, the chronic swelling from RA can cause permanent damage to the joints.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis treatments include disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), analgesics (painkillers) and biologics (medications produced from living organisms or components of living organisms).

Adherence:
Adhering to your medications, prescribed exercises or lifestyle changes (such as dietary changes, smoking cessation, reduced alcohol consumption, etc.) is essential to improving health outcomes successfully. Compliance to any prescribed treatment is the number one thing you can do to ensure positive changes and optimal treatment outcomes.

Biologics and Biosimilars are innovative second line treatment options for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis and Psoriatic Arthritis. Biologics and Biosimilars are made up of live proteins and therefor cannot be injested. Administration is therefor through subcutaneous injection.

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