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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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Should You Try a Low-Residue Diet?

If a doctor has diagnosed you or a loved one with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) -- like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis -- or with diverticulitis, your doctor may suggest you follow a low-residue diet. Never heard of it? The basic idea is that you'll eat foods that are easy to digest, and you'll limit those that aren't. 

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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:

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:

Side effects at the location of the injection include:

Some serious potential side effects include:

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:

Serious potential side effects include:

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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