Finding the Right Crohn's Disease Treatment

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6 Facts About Biologics for Crohn's Disease

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    The Goals of Treatment
    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 called biological therapy, or biologics. Read on to learn how it works.

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    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 given by injection in a vein or under the skin. The five biologics approved to treat Crohn's disease are Humira (Adalimumab), Tysabri (Natalizumab), Remicade (Infliximab), and Cimzia (Certolizumab pegol), and Entyvio (Vedolizumab).

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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
  3. Biologic Therapies. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.
  4. Crohn's disease: management in adults, children and young people. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
  5. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Remicade.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 3
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