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Biologics Revolutionize Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment

By

Gina Garippo

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How Biologics Are Given

In the past 10 years, the treatment of psoriatic arthritis has dramatically improved thanks to the creation of biologic response modifier (or biologic) drugs. Biologics, which are made from living things such as human and animal proteins, target specific areas of the immune system that cause psoriatic arthritis.

The drugs have offered tremendous hope for those with moderate to severe psoriatic arthritis, providing treatment success, usually without serious side effects.

Biologic Drugs at Work

Unlike other systemic treatments for psoriatic arthritis that affect the entire immune system, biologic drugs are designed to weaken or block only certain parts of the immune system, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and specific Interleukin (IL) molecules. TNF-alpha, a substance created in excess by people with psoriatic arthritis, triggers inflammation, which leads to joint damage, pain, stiffness, and swelling. Interleukins are a protein family of inflammatory mediators.

Today, we’ve seen many advances in treating the damage and pain of psoriatic arthritis. Watch as experts share the advice they give patients for managing the condition.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 29, 2017

2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Some biologic drugs prescribed for psoriatic arthritis are given by self-injection weekly or monthly, but others require injection or infusion at the doctor’s office. Biologics effective in treating psoriatic arthritis currently include:

  • Adalimumab (Humira)

  • Alefacept  (Amevive)

  • Etanercept (Enbrel)

  • Golimumab (Simponi)

  • Infliximab (Remicade)

  • Ustekinumab (Stelara)
  • Secukinumab (Cosentyx)

Understanding the Benefits and Risks

Biologic drugs have been shown to significantly improve symptoms of psoriatic arthritis for most people without causing unwanted side effects such as organ damage. The drugs have also been shown to slow or prevent disease-related joint damage.

Biologic drugs are fairly new, and it’s important to know that long-term research on potential risks is not available. Because biologics target the immune system, risk for infection is a serious concern. Studies on individuals with rheumatoid arthritis who have taken the drugs for at least 10 years have not found any major problems. 

Limitations to Biologics

Despite the treatment success of biologic drugs for people with psoriatic arthritis, they aren’t available for every person with the disease. One reason is that they are extremely expensive and not affordable without good health insurance. Even then, many insurers require patients to try “traditional” disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) first.

To learn if biologics could benefit you, talk with your doctor. Psoriatic arthritis affects each person differently. Your doctor will create a treatment plan based on your individual condition and needs. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Biologics are made from living things such as human and animal proteins and target specific areas of the immune system that cause psoriatic arthritis.

  • Biologics have been shown to significantly improve symptoms usually without causing major side effects.

  • These drugs are expensive and may not be appropriate for all people with psoriatic arthritis. Talk with your doctor about including biologics in your treatment plan.

Was this helpful? (16)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Mar 25, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Psoriatic Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/psoriatic-arthritis
  2. Disease-modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs). The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance. http://www.papaa.org/psoriatic-arthritis-treatments/disease-modifying-anti-rheumatic-drugs-dmards
  3. About Psoriatic Arthritis. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriatic-arthritis
  4. Disease-modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs). National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/psoriatic-arthritis/treatments/dmards
  5. Moderate to Severe Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis: Biologic Drugs. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/treatments/biologics
  6. Psoriatic Arthritis. American College of Rheumatology. http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Psoriatic-Arthritis
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Exercise Helps Ease the Pain of Psoriatic Arthritis

Keeping your joints in motion with the right types of exercise can ease pain and stiffness associated with psoriatic arthritis.

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