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Can I take other medications in addition to biologics?

Expert:   Linda Russell, MD, Hospital for Special Surgery »

Some medications are unsafe to take while you're on biologics. Take a look at this video to learn about the interactions between drugs.

Transcript: There are many medications you can take even while on biologics—which is lucky for people with concurrent medical conditions. But there are SOME drugs you should AVOID. First, you should NEVER take TWO biologics at the same time. Biologic combinations won’t make you feel doubly better, but they WILL amplify your risk of serious infection, which is ALREADY higher than normal when you’re on this sort of drug. Your infection risk is higher because biologics suppress your immune system. This is also why you shouldn’t get LIVE vaccines when you’re on biologics. The vaccines for measles/mumps/rubella, typhoid, smallpox , and yellow fever all contain LIVE viruses. If you need a live vaccine, which often happens if you’re going to be traveling, try to get it 1 to 3 months BEFORE starting any biologic. Vaccines made from dead viral strains, such as the injectable influenza vaccine, are safe at any time. Because of your compromised immune system from taking a biologic, antibiotics are not as effective as the should – or need to – be. If you absolutely need antibiotics while you’re ON biologics, stop treatment with the biologic until the course of antibiotics is finished. Finally, a word to people with diabetes—if you want to take abatacept, another biologic, you should be on the SUBCUTANEOUS INJECTION version. The INTRAVENOUS type may give you false glucose readings due to the maltose present in IV administration. Even if these precautions don’t apply to you, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor before taking ANY medications—whether it’s an over-the-counter or prescription drug. And mention all supplements and herbal remedies you use or want to use. There may be interactions that affect you individually. To learn more about rheumatoid arthritis treatment, take a look at other videos in this series. More »

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