6 Facts About Biologics for Crohn's Disease

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Paige Greenfield Fowler on November 16, 2022

Biologics block the body's inflammation response, which can lead to an improvement in the symptoms of Crohn's disease.

Although there's no cure for Crohn's disease, there are many different treatments. The main goals of treatment are to reduce inflammation, prevent flare-ups, and relieve symptoms such as pain and diarrhea. One type of medication used to treat Crohn's disease is biological therapy, or biologics. Read on to learn how it works.

  • Female Scientist Looking Through Microscope
    1. How Biological Therapies Work
    Biologics are made from parts of living organisms, usually proteins. Biologics bind to other proteins produced by the immune system, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF). People with Crohn's disease have high levels of TNF. By binding to TNF or other inflammatory molecules, biologics block the body's inflammation response.
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    2. How Biologics Are Given
    Biologics aren't pills. They're administered as infusions or an injection. For an infusion or first-time injection, you will have a healthcare provider give you the medication. If the medication comes as an injection, you will likely be able to give yourself the injection at home as long as you do well after the initial dose. Biologics are usually stored in the refrigerator, but you will bring them to room temperature before injection.
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    3. People Who Benefit from Biologics
    The FDA has approved biologics for people with moderate to severe Crohn's disease who haven't responded to standard therapies. These include anti-inflammation medications containing mesalamine, corticosteroids, and immune system suppressors. Biologics are also approved to treat open, draining fistulas—abnormal connections to the intestine that occur in affected areas.
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    4. Impact on Other Treatments
    Research shows that biological therapies may make immunosuppressive medications more effective. In addition, with certain biologics, you may not need to use steroids. Although they help reduce inflammation, steroids can cause serious side effects such as osteoporosis.
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    5. Common Side Effects
    Biologics may lower your body's ability to fight infections. This can put you at risk for infections due to viruses or bacteria, including tuberculosis. Cancer can also occur in people taking TNF-blocking medications. Your doctor will monitor your health throughout treatment. If you have any concerns, discuss them with your doctor.
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    6. Consider the Cost
    Biologics can be a pricey treatment option, sometimes totaling more than $20,000 per year. However, they may provide savings later on. Receiving biologic therapy treatment may help reduce hospitalizations and hospital costs. Check with your health insurance plan for coverage details. Also, many drug manufacturers offer programs that help people pay for their biologics. Learn more on the manufacturers' websites.
6 Facts About Biologics for Crohn's Disease

About The Author

  1. Tang DH, et al. Cost-utility analysis of biologic treatments for moderate-to-severe Crohn's disease. Pharmacotherapy. 2012;32(6):515-26.
  2. Crohn’s Disease. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/crohns-disease/Pages/facts.aspx
  3. Biologic Therapies. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. http://www.ccfa.org/resources/biologic-therapies.html
  4. Crohn's disease: management in adults, children and young people. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. https://www.guideline.gov/content.aspx?id=38574
  5. Biologics. Arthritis Foundation. https://www.arthritis.org/drug-guide/biologics/biologics#:~:text=All%20biologic%20drugs%20are%20administered,give%20infusions%20and%20initial%20injections.
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Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 16
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