The term “biologics” is the name of a new class of medical treatment. They are highly targeted medicines, often modified antibodies, designed to perform a very specific action in the body, usually by blocking a very specific function. In the field of Allergy, some of the new biologics have become extremely useful tools for treating conditions in people for whom traditional medications have not worked. The conditions Allergists treat with biologics include asthma, eczema (atopic dermatitis), and chronic hives (urticaria). Prior to biologics, these conditions often required frequent or long-term treatment with oral steroids or other harsh medications which can cause many and serious side effects. Of course, biologics have their own side-effects but they are much rarer and treatment with them is generally well-tolerated.
The goal of treating these conditions with biologics is to achieve good control over the symptoms without needing oral steroids. For asthma, the currently available biologics include Omalizumab (Xolair), Mepolizumab (Nucala), Reslizumab (Cinqair), and Benralizumab (Fasenra). Depending on the specifics of one’s asthma, one biologic might be more appropriate than another. For eczema, the only available biologic is Dupilumab (Dupixent). As with asthma, treatment with this biologic could cut down the need for oral steroids as well as even topical steroids to maintain control of eczema symptoms. For chronic hives, the same biologic used to treat asthma, Omalizumab, has also been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms in about 70% of people.
Biologics are also a big step forward toward the lofty goal of personalized medicine. Medical research is showing that not all asthmatics have the same exact type of inflammation when one “looks under the hood.” By using the correct biologic in the correct scenario, better control of symptoms can be achieved without resorting to frequent or long-term use of harsher medications. While asthma has multiple options, eczema and chronic hives currently have only one biologic option each. The good news is that more biologics are on the way. To see if a biologic treatment is a correct option for you, make an appointment to see one of our Allergists today.
Yoram Padeh, M.D.
Board-Certified in Allergy & Immunology (ABAI)
Asthma & Allergy Associates of FL