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Biologics for RA: Costs and Insurance

By Geri K. Metzger
WebMD Feature

Biologic drugs for rheumatoid arthritis work for 2 out of 3 people who take them for RA. These genetically engineered drugs often slow or halt the progression of joint damage, and they may even push RA into remission. But the drugs are expensive; they cost about $1,000 to $3,000 a month. Even with health insurance, your out-of-pocket costs can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Here’s what you need to know about paying for biologics if your doctor wants to add one to your RA treatment plan.

Pick the Right Biologic for You

There are nine biologics available for the treatment of RA. Each type targets a specific inflammatory mechanism of the immune system. Some are given as an injection -- a shot under the skin -- others are given by infusing it directly into a vein (IV or intravenously). These drugs can be used alone but are often combined with methotrexate or other RA medications.

Drug Name Brand Name How it is Given How Often
Abatacept Orencia IV or injection IV: Once a month; injection: once a week
Adalimumab Humira injection Weekly or every other week
Anakinra Kineret injection Every day
Certolizumab Cimzia injection Once every 2 to 4 weeks
Etanercept Enbrel injection Once a week
Golimumab Simponi IV or injection IV: Every 8 weeks; injection: once a month
Infliximab Remicade IV Once every 4 to 8 weeks
Rituximab Rituxan IV Two doses, two weeks apart about every 6 months
Tocilizumab Actemra IV or injection IV: Once a month; injection: Weekly or every other week

Biologics are used to treat RA when methotrexate has failed. If one biologic doesn’t work, your doctor will try another one. It may take some time to find the best drug for you.

The other factor to consider when choosing or switching drugs is side effects. With all of the biologics, you are at increased risk of serious infection.

Do You Prefer a Shot or IV?

Biologics can be given as an injection or intravenously (IV). You and your doctor will want to consider what is best and most convenient for you when choosing a biologic.

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