Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Scoop on Biologics #RABlog


This week, I'm blogging as a part of RA Blog Week. Today's subject is the biologic.

When I was first learning about the medications available to treat my Systemic Juvenile Arthritis in 2009 and early 2010, I was horribly frightened. I had been led to believe that all of these side effects were worse than my illnesses themselves and were nearly guaranteed to happen. 

This is so far from true that it makes me angry to remember how my mother instilled this fear in me.

In doing my own research on the subject and talking to experts, both in the health care practitioner field and patients, I learned just how helpful biologics can truly be. Sure, there are side effects that can be scary and/or dangerous. Most often, though, the side effects are far less than the benefits you get from these medications.

Still, when I started Humira, I was sure I was going to turn into a hamster the next day. An irrational fear, I know, but a fear still. By the time I started Enbrel, a similar drug, that fear had dissipated. Things went incredibly well with Enbrel... and yet, my body built antibodies to it quickly, rendering it pretty much useless.

Antibody build-up is a very real issue with biologics because the medications aren't being effective in your body anymore. Sometimes that means that side effects are more prevalent because the benefits go way down.

It can also happen if the drug you're on isn't one that actually effectively treats your disease, too. Anti-TNF biologics such as Humira & Enbrel are generally not effective for those of us dealing with SJIA or Still's Disease as they target different forms of inflammation than are shown to be most active for us.


For that, interleukin (IL) medications are the most effective, such as Actemra, Ilaris, and Kineret. I'm currently on the latter and it has just about put my SJIA into remission. My rheumy and I aren't 100% calling it that at this point, but I have had normal inflammation levels in my body for 13 months because of it.

It's something that I'm not sure I remember ever experiencing in my entire life.

That doesn't mean I don't have hard SJIA days - I definitely do, but I'm able to manage them more effectively without having to resort to prednisone to get me by. I utilize topicals and additional NSAIDs and my tens unit to push me through.

I have to say, though, that my fibromyalgia has been the biggest problem since about March of this year. That isn't as easy to deal with, but is also not treated by biologics.

So, hey, biologics can be scary. It's true... but they can also change our lives beyond anything we could imagine. It's worth the risk to get the potential payoff.

What has your experience been with biologics?





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