How Biologics Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on October 18, 2021

These medications work on your immune system to curb inflammation.

There are different types. They target the causes of joint inflammation and damage in rheumatoid arthritis. Each biologic focuses on one of these things:

Tame Inflammation and Save Joints

The goal is to control inflammation to ease joint pain and other symptoms, and to slow down or stop joint damage.

Doctors often prescribe biologics if another group of drugs, called DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs), don’t control RA well enough. You can take biologics with other types of RA drugs. Usually, people who take one also take a DMARD. But you can take a biologic by itself.

All biologics have been shown to slow or even stop joint damage from getting worse. Though it may take some time to find the one that works best for you, most people eventually have some improvement in their RA symptoms.

Studies show that these improvements usually last, and that they can help you move better and handle your daily activities.

Because biologic drugs suppress the immune system, you’re more likely to get an infection when you take them. Most cases are mild, like a cold or sinus infection. It’s rare, but there have been life-threatening infections, including tuberculosis. Your doctor will closely watch for serious infections when you take a biologic. They can tell you about the benefits and risks of all your medicines.

WebMD Medical Reference



American College of Rheumatology: “Position statement: biologic agents for rheumatic diseases,” “Patient education: biologic treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.”

Thomas Hardin, vice president for research, Arthritis Foundation.

Choy, E. New England Journal of Medicine, 2001.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Handout on Health: Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

Douglas Conaway, MD, rheumatologist, Carolina Health Specialists, Myrtle Beach, SC.

Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center: “Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment.”

FDA: “FDA approves Amjevita, a biosimilar to Humira.”

Pfizer Inc.

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