Video Q & A:

Biologics

Question:

What are the most common side effects of biologics?

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

All drugs come with side effects, no matter how well they work to treat your symptoms. Biologics are no exception-- check out this video to learn about the most common ones.

Transcript: Biologic response modifiers have the potential to DRASTICALLY decrease your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and PREVENT joint erosion. But like every medication, biologics have side effects. Biologics treat rheumatoid arthritis by modifying your immune system response. While this relieves your symptoms, it also reduces your body’s ability to fight OFF infection. People on biologics MAY develop upper respiratory infections, PNEUMONIA, urinary tract infections and skin infections more often than others. There is also a slim chance of developing fungal infections, being more susceptible to food-borne illnesses such as botulism and salmonella, and developing, or awakening a latent case of, tuberculosis. If you do contract an infection, the doctor will take you OFF the biologic and—if need be-- put you on ANTIBIOTICS until you recover. Since all biologics are administered through injection or infusion, skin reactions such as redness, rashes, burning, ITCHING, swelling, or BRUISING surrounding the injection site, are common. BUT these usually go away in 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the drug. The other common side effects depend heavily on which biologic you’re on. Several can cause sore throats, runny noses, headaches, upset stomach and other flu-like symptoms. Often, the BENEFITS of biologics outweigh the risk. But if the side effects of YOUR biologic are becoming intolerable, talk to your doctor—you may be able to switch your prescription. More »

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