- The risk of infection is increased due to the medication changing the way your immune system works.
- There is a potential to re-activate Hepatitis B in patients with a history of Hepatitis B. Blood tests should be done before beginning a biologic medication
- Allergic Reactions are possible. Contact your doctor or nurse if any of these happen.
- Symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath, chills, redness, itchiness, itchy eyes, or itchy lips for I/V infusions.
- Redness, itchiness, warm and tender to touch, and the possibility of a full body rash for injections.
- Less common side effects can include:
- Central nervous system symptoms such as sudden vision problems, or any new numbness or tingling.
- Cardiac reactions including sudden swelling of the ankles, shortness of breath, swelling of the hands or sudden onset of heart failure which sometimes can be linked to medications aggravating previous conditions such as COPD.
- Lupus-like syndrome. If a rash starts across your face and arms that gets worse when exposed to the sun, and you have new joint and body pain let your provider know immediately.
One of the biggest questions we hear from our patients relates to the side effects of their medications. Here are some common side effects that you should know about with biologic medications.
A main side effect of biologic medications is serious infection. Most likely, these infections are not because of the medications themselves, however, biologic medications change the way your immune works. Biologic medications help to control your inflammatory disease but also affect your natural ability to fight off an infection. If you get an infection while taking a biologic medication, you should let your doctor know right away so it can be treated. While on an antibiotic, you will likely pause your biologic medication until your doctor says you are able to resume your treatment.
Re-Activation of Hepatitis B and/or tuberculosis (TB)
Another possible side effect patients can encounter when taking a biologic is the re-activation of certain diseases like Hepatitis B or TB. Your provider will do bloodwork to look for past exposure. Theses diseases will be treated before beginning a biologic.
Some individuals can experience allergic reactions to their biologic medication. The types of reactions can vary depending on how you receive your drug.
Infusions are performed through I/V where the drug is delivered through a needle in your vein at an infusion center. Allergic reactions with a biologic infusion may result in shortness of breath, chills, redness, itchiness, itchy eyes, or itchy lips.
If your medication is given through an injection, you may see a reaction at the injection site where they needle puncture is. Symptoms of injection site reactions are redness, itchiness, warm and tender to touch, and the possibility of a full body rash.
If any of these symptoms start please let your nurse or provider know immediately.
Other, less common side effects that can occur with biologic medications are possible central nervous system disorders, cardiac issues, and Lupus-like syndrome.
Central nervous system reaction symptoms that can occur are sudden vision problems or any new numbness or tingling.
Cardiac issues might include exacerbation or a sudden onset of heart failure. If you have sudden swelling of the ankles, shortness of breath, or swelling of the hands let your provider know immediately. Your provider will take a look at the medications and see what could be the cause, some medications can aggravate things like COPD and make them worse while on the medication.
Lupus-like syndrome is another immune disorder that can occur when taking these medications. If a rash starts across your face and arms that gets worse when exposed to the sun, and you have new joint and body pain this could be a sign of Lupus-like syndrome. Please let you provider know if you develop any of these symptoms.
While these side effects are not common, they can still occur. It is important that you know what to look for to prevent any long-term side effects.