Biologic Treatments for Inflammatory Arthritis

What is a biologic treatment?

biologic treatment

A biological medicine, or biologic, is a type of treatment for some long-term medical conditions like axial spondyloarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Unlike traditional medications like ibuprofen or paracetamol, biologic medicines are made from living organisms. The material they are made from can come from many sources, including humans, animals and microorganisms such as bacteria or yeast.

Biologics are a type of ‘targeted therapy’ and are specifically designed to block certain parts of the immune system. Because they are proteins, these medications cannot be given as a tablet. Instead they are given via an injection under the skin or into the blood.

Biological therapies are only given to people who have already tried other treatments appropriate to their condition and not responded well to them. Biological therapies are often given alongside other medications such as methotrexate.

Role of biologic treatments in inflammatory arthritis

Side effects

Biologic medicines can help to reduce excess inflammation, pain and stiffness.

It can take up to 3–6 months to see an improvement with a biologic medication. However, if there is still no improvement or there are serious side effects, it is usually recommended to stop the treatment. Your rheumatologist might then suggest another biologic medication instead. Not every biologic medication works in the same way, so if one doesn't work, another might still be an option.

Biologic medicines used to treat inflammatory arthritis

There are four types of biologic therapy which have been approved for use within the UK and Ireland to treat the different forms of inflammatory arthritis. They all work by reducing the excess inflammation present in the body.

  1. Tumor necrosis factor alpha inhibitors (Anti-TNF)
  2. Interleukin inhibitors (Anti-IL)
  3. B-cell therapy
  4. T-cell therapy

Anti-TNF treatment

Anti-TNF treatments disrupt the action of a protein called tumour necrosis factor (TNF) which is over-active in people with inflammatory arthritis.

Too much TNF causes inflammation and damage to bones, cartilage and tissue. Anti-TNF treatments block how TNF works and can reduce the amount of excess inflammation present in your body and joints.

Anti-IL treatment

People with inflammatory arthritis have very high levels of proteins called interleukins in their body. Interleukins play an important role in causing the excess inflammation associated with inflammatory arthritis. Anti-IL treatments work by neutralising the activity of certain interleukins and can reduce the amount of excess inflammation present in your body and joints.

B-cell therapy

Inflammatory arthritis causes the body's immune system to become over-active causing a group of cells in the body’s immune system, called B-cells, to attack the body’s own tissues by mistake. B-cell therapy works by lowering the activity of B-cells, to reduce inflammation, pain and swelling in rheumatoid arthritis.

T-cell therapy

T-cells are a group of cells in the body’s immune system that attack the body’s own tissues, causing swelling and joint damage. T-cell therapy works by stopping T-cells from communicating with one another and this helps to reduce inflammation. This type of therapy is only used for severe inflammatory arthritis in certain situations.