Treating Psoriasis: How Are Biologics Different?


A variety of treatment options are available to manage psoriasis. Biologics are the newest class of FDA-approved psoriasis drugs. They work very differently from other available psoriasis treatments.

Biologics have been used for treating psoriasis since 2003. However, many people still have questions about them.

Here’s how biologics are different from other treatment options.

Biologics are a class of drugs. They’re made in a lab from proteins that are derived from living cells.

Biologics are a newer type of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD). They were developed to target specific actions in the immune system thought to contribute to psoriasis.

Several biologic drugs are approved to treat psoriasis, as well as other types of inflammatory, autoimmune conditions.

Biologics work differently than other psoriasis treatments. They target the overactive immune system response to stop it at its source.

A typical immune system works to protect the body from foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses. Psoriasis is thought to occur when the immune system goes into overdrive and reproduces skin cells at an accelerated level. These cells pile up on the skin’s surface, contributing to psoriasis lesions.

Traditional DMARDs treat psoriasis by suppressing the overactive immune system on a broad level. Biologics work to block the specific proteins in the inflammatory process that lead to psoriasis lesions. This helps lower inflammation and relieve psoriasis symptoms.

Biologics are currently the most targeted treatment option available for psoriasis.

Biologics are one of many available treatment options for psoriasis. They’re typically only prescribed to treat moderate to severe cases.

Other treatments that can work for milder cases of psoriasis include:

  • topical creams
  • anti-inflammatory medications
  • phototherapy
  • retinoid medications
  • DMARDs

You may have to try these other treatment options first before trying a biologic.

Sometimes, traditional DMARDs are not enough to manage psoriasis. If you’re following your treatment plan as prescribed and symptoms continue, talk with your doctor. Biologics typically are not prescribed unless other treatments are not working.

Biologics are known to be quite effective for managing moderate to severe psoriasis.

Biologics are administered either by injection or infusion. You or a family member can be taught to do the injection at home. Biologics that are given by intravenous infusion are administered in a healthcare setting.

Biologics are also typically taken less frequently than other available psoriasis medications. The schedule can range from weekly to every few months, depending on the type of biologic prescribed.

Your healthcare professional will discuss your treatment plan in detail, so you know what to expect.

Biologics are very expensive. The process of making biologic drugs is complicated, making them costly to produce.

The average cost for biologics is $10,000 to $30,000 per year. Many biologic drugs cost even more than this. In 2015, 38 percent of total drug spending in the United States was on biologics.

Many insurance companies cover the cost of biologics. Depending on your plan, your co-payment or out-of-pocket expenses can still be costly. Some drug companies have patient assistance programs to help with the cost of these drugs.

The option of biosimilars can help reduce the costs of biologics.

There are currently 13 biologics approved for treating psoriasis in the United States. It can take some experimenting to find the right biologic drug for you.

Not every biologic will work the same for every person. They can also take some time to become fully effective. It can take weeks to months until you see and feel a difference.

Over time, a biologic that’s previously worked can start to lose effectiveness. If that happens, your doctor might recommend switching to a different biologic.

Biosimilars are also entering the market. These medications have the same action as a biologic but are made by a different company. Biosimilars can also be a good treatment option for many people living with psoriasis.

However, there have been barriers to getting biosimilars to market. There are often legal challenges with the patents, which has slowed down the number of available biosimilars so far.

People who have psoriasis are more likely to develop a type of arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis (PsA).

With PsA, an overactive immune system response similar to the one that attacks the skin in psoriasis also targets the joints. Left unmanaged over time, this can lead to permanent joint damage.

Biologics can be used to block the immune response that attacks the joints. This prevents permanent joint damage from PsA.

Many biologic medications can help manage both psoriasis and PsA. Some biologics can also be used to manage other inflammatory autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease.

Biologics work differently than other available psoriasis treatments. They calm down inflammation in the body that contributes to psoriasis by targeting the overactive immune response.

Biologics are not for everyone. Work with your doctor to determine whether a biologic may be right for you.