August 10, 2015

​Understanding Biologic Drugs

The use of natural plant substances to treat and cure disease and injuries dates back to prehistoric times. Ancient Egyptians used honey to treat infections. Babylonian physicians were prescribing creams and pills around 1050 BC. The Hippocratic Oath, a code of ethical standards from the 5th Century BC still sworn by new doctors today, references “deadly drugs.”

From Medieval times into the 20th Century, plants and chemical compounds in various forms changed the face of medicine, alleviating pain, curing infections, lowering blood pressure, controlling seizures and calming unquiet minds. Countless lives have been saved, innumerable injuries healed, thanks to over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

Today, scientific advances have led to new drug therapies whose full benefits and risks are still unknown, but whose lifesaving potential offers hope for a new revolution in medical care.

Biopharmaceuticals, also called biologics, are created from biologic, (human, animal or microorganism) sources, not plants or chemicals. Most biologics come from sequencing DNA molecules in new combinations that can stimulate production of things the body needs, e.g., insulin, and inhibit the expression of such health hazards as cancer, Crohn’s Disease, allergies and rheumatoid arthritis.

Because biologics are targeted to specific diseased cells, they do not generate some of the severe side effects often associated with treatments affecting large areas of healthy cells.

However, the study and use of biologics in health care is still in its infancy and there are risks already documented and many that remain to be seen. Also, the cost of most biologics is prohibitive.

Medications of any kind can be life-enhancing and life-saving. They can also be harmful, even life-threatening, when causing severe adverse reactions or used inappropriately. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about the medications you are prescribed to understand the benefits and the risks they present. Visit MyHealthWI.org for tips on talking with your doctor and taking an active role in your health care decisions.