Video Q & A:



How do biologics affect my immune system?

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

Biologics target distinct components of your immune system in order to treat your rheumatoid arthritis. Find out how these vital medications relieve your pain and stiffness.

Transcript: If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system is in overdrive. It mistakenly attacks your healthy joint lining, triggering the symptoms you know so well. BIOLOGIC RESPONSE MODIFIERS TARGET the specific CELLS and MOLECULES in your immune system that cause your inflammation. There are a few different types of biologics. TNF INHIBITORS are the most popular biologic. They block TNF –that’s tumor necrosis factor. It’s an inflammatory substance that is part of the body’s process of fending off disease by attacking and destroying invading bacteria and viruses. In an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis, however, TNF turns its power on healthy tissue. These drugs stop that from happening. There are five TNF inhibitors approved for treating rheumatoid arthritis—etanercept, infliximab, adalimumab, certolizumab and golimumab. Another biologic, abatacept, blocks the inflammatory action of immune system T-cells. And the biologic rituximab decreases the amount of B-cells, which is ANOTHER type of white blood cell. Tocilizumab acts on an inflammatory molecule called interleukin-6, while anakinra acts on one called interleukin-1. All of these drugs fight rheumatoid arthritis effectively – but they all also suppress your immune system’s ability to respond to outside intruders. The molecules and white blood cells that biologics are blocking are the SAME ones that fight infections such as colds, flus, and urinary tract infections. So, these medications INCREASE your risk of catching something and MAY limit your body’s ability to fight it off. So take care of yourself. Wash your hands, avoid sick people, eat nutritiously and get plenty of sleep. If you do catch an infection, your doctor may temporarily pause your treatment until you get better. The risk of infection may SEEM like a steep price to pay, but biologics often DRASTICALLY reduce your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and PREVENT joint damage that would otherwise leave you disabled. Watch other videos in this series to learn more about biologics and your immune system. More »

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