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  • Writer's pictureValerie Smith, APRN

When to Consider Biological Therapies for Rheumatic Diseases

Updated: Feb 7

Living with a rheumatic disease can be challenging and while traditional treatments exist, the emergence of biological therapies has opened new avenues for managing these conditions to live your best life. 

Let’s explore what to consider when determining if biological therapies are right for your disease treatment plan.

Understanding Rheumatic Diseases

Rheumatic diseases encompass a diverse group of conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and lupus, among others. These autoimmune disorders share a common feature: the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues, leading to inflammation in joints, connective tissues, and sometimes organs.

Different treatment options are available including biological therapies.

What are biological therapies?

Biological therapies, also known as biologics or biological response modifiers, are a class of medications used in the treatment of various autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, including rheumatic diseases. These therapies are distinct from traditional chemical-based drugs and are derived from living organisms or substances produced by living organisms. 

Biological therapies are administered through injections or infusions, and the specific method depends on the type of medication, the condition being treated, and individual patient factors. 

When to Consider Biological Therapies

  • Inadequate Response to Traditional Treatments:

  • Biological therapies become a consideration when traditional treatments like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) fail to provide sufficient relief.

  • Persistent symptoms, joint damage, and declining quality of life despite conventional treatments may indicate a need for a more targeted approach.

  • Aggressive Disease Progression:

  • When rheumatic diseases progress rapidly, causing significant joint damage and functional impairment, biological therapies can intervene effectively.

  • Early intervention with biologics may help slow or halt disease progression, preserving joint function and improving long-term outcomes.

  • Functional Impairment and Reduced Quality of Life:

  • If the rheumatic disease adversely affects daily activities, mobility, and overall well-being, biological therapies can offer a chance for substantial improvement.

  • Achieving better disease control through biologics can enhance quality of life by minimizing pain, fatigue, and limitations on physical activities.

  • Unacceptable Side Effects of Traditional Medications:

  • Individuals who experience intolerable side effects or complications from traditional medications may find relief in biological therapies.

  • Biologics often have a different mechanism of action, providing an alternative for those unable to tolerate or respond adequately to standard treatments.

  • Positive Biomarkers or Disease Activity Indicators:

  • Elevated levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) or persistent disease activity observed through imaging studies may signal the need for biological therapies.

  • Regular monitoring and assessment by healthcare professionals can guide treatment decisions based on objective measures of disease activity.

  • Personalized Treatment Goals:

  • Considering biologics should align with personalized treatment goals, taking into account the individual's lifestyle, preferences, and expectations.

  • Open communication between patients and healthcare providers is crucial to developing a treatment plan that addresses specific needs and aspirations.

If you are considering biological therapies, it’s important to discuss this with your healthcare team and rheumatologist to ensure it’s the right treatment plan for you. The decision to consider biological therapies for rheumatic diseases is multifaceted, requiring careful evaluation of treatment responses, disease progression, and individual goals.

 As innovative therapies continue to advance, individuals living with rheumatic diseases can explore new possibilities for achieving better symptom control and an improved quality of life.

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