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Biological drugs are hope for many chronically and terminally ill people. Hope for life without pain or unsightly changes in the skin. Find out what biological drugs are and how they work. What makes biologics so effective?
Biological drugsContrary to popular belief, they have nothing to do with drugs used by natural medicine. They are classified as proteins because this is their chemical structure. "Biological" in this case means that living organisms with their genetic material are used to make these drugs. This is how perfect drug molecules, compatible with each amino acid, are created, which can act within the human immune system.
How do biological drugs work?
The most valuable feature of biological drugs is the fact that, thanks to their unique structure, they can modify immune reactions in our body, in accordance with the therapeutic goal. But the human immune system is not always as humble as we would like it to be. It happens that after contact with a biological drug it reacts independently. For example, it can make antibodies to a drug and thus weaken its effect, or develop an adverse autoimmune reaction that will initiate a new disease or cause side effects. But it is not everything. Since biological drugs are proteins, they can initiate an allergic reaction.
Biological drugs are monoclonal (chimeric or humanized, i.e. mixed, e.g. murine-human or fully human) or fusion proteins (resulting from the combination of two or more genes). ). But the difference in structure does not affect the effectiveness of treatment.
Using medical language, we can say that biological drugs are immunomodulating - immunosuppressive or immunostimulating, as well as immunogenic and immunizing. This means that under their influence, the immune system stops or intensifies it.
Depending on the immune system's response to contact with proteins derived from the drug, they initiate a cellular response and the production of antibodies. In other words, they control our body's immune responses. Vaccines, microorganisms and allergens work in a similar way.
Biological drugs cure many diseases
Biological drugs are currently used in many diseases:dermatological (e.g. psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, systemic scleroderma, pemphigus), rheumatology (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis), oncological (e.g. certain lymphomas, melanoma, cancer breast) and gastroenterology (including Crohn's disease).
Scientists want to expand the list of diseases that can be treated with biological drugs. Research is ongoing to answer the question - when should you start therapy with these drugs? After the disease is diagnosed, or when standard treatment is not beneficial? The collected information shows that some biological drugs used in the treatment of neoplastic diseases, despite their high toxicity and high costs of treatment, can significantly extend life or - in rarer cases - give complete remission in patients with advanced neoplastic disease, i.e. with metastases. Currently, biological drugs are only given when standard therapy fails. There is hope, however, that after analyzing the results of all clinical trials, the current treatment regimens will be modified. As confirmed by numerous studies, the use of biological drugs in the treatment of inflammatory diseases (e.g. gastroenterological, dermatological or rheumatological diseases) as first-line drugs is the most appropriate solution. The goal of such treatment is to reduce or avoid the long-term side effects of the glucocorticoids commonly used in the treatment of these conditions. Currently, these drugs are used in patients with severe forms of inflammatory diseases who do not respond to standard therapy, and in patients who have contraindications or cannot tolerate standard therapy.
Biological drugs: treatment costs
Not all chronically ill patients require biological treatment - this is a medically justified fact. But it is also true that the availability of biological therapies in Poland is difficult. For example: out of the entire 400,000 group of RA patients, biological treatment needs approx. 30,000. people, and it is used by only 2.5 thousand. people. Monthly treatment costs NFZ about 4 thousand. PLN.
Most patients are treated with standard drugs, the cost of which (drugs for RA, protective drugs) is approximately PLN 300. But no one counts the indirect costs of illness, such as hospital stay, rehabilitation, sick leave or disability pensions, and the cost of special nutrition. The cost of treatment in other diseases is similar. Therefore, both the patient's welfare and the economic calculation of the state speak for increasing the availability of biological therapy.