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Treating Crohn's With Biologics: Drugs at a Glance

Biologic drugs can be a good option to help make your Crohn's symptoms go away and prevent new flare-ups. To do this, they attack enzymes or proteins that inflame your intestine.

Biologics don't suppress your whole immune system, as steroids tend to, so they are less likely to cause major side effects.

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There are four biologic drugs approved to treat Crohn's disease. Three of them are in the class of drugs known as TNF-blockers:

  • Cimzia (certolizumab)
  • Humira (adalimumab)
  • Remicade (infliximab)

Tysabri (natalizumab), the fourth biologic drug, is in the drug class known as monoclonal antibodies.

Dosing Schedule

Cimzia. This drug isgiven as a shot. After your first shot, you get injections at 2 and 4 weeks. After that you get a shot every 4 weeks.

Humira. This is also given as a shot. You'll need to take a shot every 2 weeks.

Remicade. You take this drug through an IV. After your first IV dose, you'll get another IV dose at 2 weeks and 6 weeks. After that you'll get an IV dose every 8 weeks.

Side Effects

The side effects vary by the class of drug you are taking.

Common side effects for TNF-blockers -- Cimzia, Humira, and Remicade -- include:

  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Headache

Side effects at the location of the injection include:

  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Pain

Some serious potential side effects include:

  • New or worse symptoms of heart failure
  • Hives
  • Face or throat swelling
  • Wheezing
  • Shock
  • Muscle weakness and numbness
  • Lupus-like syndrome
  • Higher risk of serious infections and lymphoma

Before you start taking any of these drugs your doctor will screen you for tuberculosis (TB) and check for new signs of TB during treatment.

Common side effects for Tysabri, a monoclonal antibody, include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Sore throat

Serious potential side effects include:

  • Liver damage
  • Hives
  • Face or throat swelling
  • Wheezing
  • Shock

Tysabri may also raise your risk of a rare brain infection that causes death or severe disability. You should not take it if you have a weakened immune system.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on December 29, 2013

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