What Are Biologic Therapies?
Biologic drugs for psoriasis are a new class of drugs is rapidly advancing and may one day overtake the more toxic systemic forms of psoriasis drugs. These drugs are more targeted and focus on the intervening in the key steps that actually lead to the development of psoriatic lesions.
Biotechnology companies have been developing novel new “designer” biologic drugs that specific abnormalities of a psoriasis patient’s immune dysfunction.
Some of these drugs include Etanercept, Inflixamab, Adalimumab, and Ustekinumab.
Because these drugs are relatively new, their long-term side effects are still unknown, something you should always keep in mind, regardless of what your doctor or dermatologist may tell you. These drugs are still too new to understand their long-term impact on your immune system, and consequently your health. There are several ways that this class of psoriasis drugs differs from the traditional systemic drugs:
- They are often made from naturally occurring substances. Conventional drugs are made by combining one or more chemicals, and made into a tablet of capsule. Biologic therapies are often injected drugs that are made from enzymes, proteins, antibodies or nucleic acids (e.g., DNA). Insulin is a hormone administered to a patient with Type 1 Diabetes, and is a form of biologic therapy.
- Biologic therapies for psoriasis are highly targeted and specifically designed (hence the term designer drug) to work against psoriasis.
The systemic drugs currently used were originally designed for different purposes, e.g., methotrexate was designed for cancer (chemotherapy) and cyclosporine was originally designed as an anti-rejection drug to be used with transplants. Psoriatic biological therapies are made using recombinant technology to counter highly specific key steps in the imbalance occurring in the immune system (the auto-immune response) of the psoriatic, rather than acting far less specifically on the immune system. This targeted action should result in hopefully less side effects, but it remains to be seen.
- Biological therapies are not given by mouth, because they are made from delicate proteins, enzymes or DNA, they would be quickly destroyed in the stomach. Unlike systemic therapies, biologic therapies are delivered by way of an injection into the muscle or under the skin, or intravenously.
- Biological drugs are very expensive to make, they are cleverly designed using the latest technology. They have been extensively tested and undergone years of clinical trials, all at a great expense to the companies who have invested in them. For this reason, they are rarely used except in very special circumstances currently. Their price and availability will improve over time no doubt, as even newer and more advanced forms of drugs will be created.