Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Biologics for Rheumatoid Arthritis: No Cure-all

Biologic Therapies Ease but Don't Eliminate RA Symptoms, Study Says
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 1, 2009 -- Biologic therapies often prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis do help improve symptoms but don't eliminate them, according to a new study.

However, patients who remain on subcutaneous biologic therapies -- medications injected under the skin -- have fewer symptoms than those who discontinue the drugs, says study author Boxiong Tang, MD, director of health economics and clinical outcomes research for Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc., in Horsham, Pa., a manufacturer of biologic therapies.

Tang presented his study looking at how the biologic medications improved quality of life, functioning, and work productivity this week in San Diego at the American Occupational Health Conference sponsored by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Biologics for RA: Background

"Rheumatoid arthritis is a leading cause of disability," Tang tells WebMD. The chronic disease is marked by inflammation of the lining of the joints, which can lead to joint damage and chronic pain. "Patients who suffer from the disease have a reduced quality of life," Tang says. Their work productivity can decline and their daily functioning can be difficult because of the pain.

RA affects about 1.3 million Americans, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Biologics, also called biologic response modifiers, are considered an important advance in RA treatment in the past decade. The medicines are given by injection or intravenous infusion. Among the options are Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, Kineret, Rituxan, Orencia, and the newest, Simponi -- approved in April and made by Centocor.

Biologics for RA: Study Details

Tang's goal in looking at the patients who were taking subcutaneous biologics, he says, is to see how the newer drugs are working out.

Tang and his colleagues extracted data from the National Health and Wellness Survey, a database created by Consumer Health Sciences, a company that markets the information to pharmaceutical and life science companies.

The RA Patient Survey included 2,048 patients, but just 362 were prescribed subcutaneous biologic therapy. Of the 362, 214 RA patients continued on the treatments and the other 148 had stopped them. Nearly 78% of the patients were women and the average age was 50.

Tang's team evaluated signs and symptoms such as morning stiffness, fatigue, and joint pain, as well as quality of life by using a common scale to assess mental and physical component scores. They compared current users' symptoms and quality of life with those who had stopped the drugs.

Today on WebMD

rubbing hands
Avoid these 6 common mistakes.
mature couple exercising
Decrease pain, increase energy.
mature woman threading needle
How much do you know?
Swelling, fatigue, pain, and more.
Lucille Ball
Hand bones X-ray
prescription pills
Woman massaging her neck
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Woman rubbing shoulder
doctor and patient hand examination