Biologic response modifiers (biologics for short) are medications that are genetically engineered from a living organism, such as a virus, gene or protein, to stimulate the body’s natural response to infection and disease. They target proteins, cells and pathways responsible for the symptoms and damage of rheumatoid arthritis and other types of inflammatory illnesses. The proteins targeted include tumor necrosis factor (TNF), interleukin inhibitors (IL) and T-cell activation.
Biologic medications are less toxic to the liver, kidneys and bone marrow compared to non-biologics such as methotrexate. The majority of side effects are found with injection site reactions. Due to the effect of these medications on the immune system, patients can have a weakened immune response when exposed to infectious agents.
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