How do biologics work?

Biologics are a new type of psoriasis medication made from proteins produced by living human and animal cells. Biologics work by targeting the underlying cause of psoriasis. They act on specific areas of the immune system that are overactive in people who have psoriasis. Some biologics work by stopping T cells, a major contributing factor in psoriasis, from becoming activated and/or from migrating to the skin, or by reducing the number of activated T cells. Biologics can also work by blocking immune system messengers, including cytokines and interleukins, that play a role in the overproduction of skin cells and inflammation.

What makes biologics different from other psoriasis treatments? Most oral psoriasis drugs work by decreasing the activity of the immune system in general. This is called immunosuppression, and can lead to an increased risk of infection, liver damage, or kidney damage. Biologics are different because they only work on those parts of the immune system that are overactive. This means they may have a lower risk of infections and side effects in other organs when compared with immunosuppressants.

There is another important difference between biologics and other psoriasis treatments. With certain biologics, treatment effects can last even after the drug is stopped. Relief of symptoms that continues after the drug is stopped is called a "remission." It means that people with psoriasis may take a break from drug treatment – this is called a "drug holiday." With other types of psoriasis drugs, the symptoms can return once the drug is stopped. This means that with some biologics, you can restart your treatment after a drug holiday without worrying that your treatment would be less effective or cause more side effects.

Biologics are given usually as an injection or infusion at a clinic. Each biologic has a different dosing interval, so keep in mind that you may need more or less frequent doses if you’re switching between biologics. Biologics can increase the risk of infections, such as upper respiratory tract infections like the flu. As a result, your doctor may ask you to complete tests for infectious diseases like hepatitis, tuberculosis and shingles first before starting a biologic. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist to learn more about biologics and whether they are the right medication for you.

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