A new biologic drug that will help treat rheumatoid arthritis has opened a discussion into the role of synthetic medications in today’s society.1 Cases of rheumatoid arthritis, characterized by the loss of joint function and mobility, are familiar to health care professionals and medical assistants.2 Researchers at Montana State University, however, have identified a chemical compound that will help those suffering from the disease.
A new treatment is discovered
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune illness that affects about 1.5 million Americans.2 Scientists have identified a compound called IQ-1S, which is a sodium salt that blocks the proteins that cause inflammation and destruction of cartilage and bone in collagen-induced arthritis. 1 This type of arthritis is an animal model of rheumatoid arthritis that is used when researchers are testing new treatments.1
IQ-1S is one of a new type of drug called biologics that are created from genetically engineered antibodies or proteins, like the ones causing rheumatoid arthritis in humans. For people with rheumatoid arthritis, this drug would help slow, modify or even stop the disease, especially for those patients who didn’t feel a change with other treatments.2
What are biologics?
Biological products, or biologics, encompass a large variety of products, including vaccines, blood and blood components, gene therapy, tissues and recombinant therapeutic proteins.3 In other words, these drugs are complex combinations of things like proteins, nucleic acids or sugars that are isolated from natural sources – animal, microorganism or human. Their purpose is to effectively treat conditions either as a stand-alone treatment or in combination with another medication.3
With the discovery of the IQ-1S compound, those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis will gain another avenue for pain relief. According to the FDA, biologics represent the cutting edge of synthetic drugs and biomedical products and may one day be the best form of treatment for a multitude of illnesses.3 Rheumatoid arthritis isn’t the only disease benefiting from the drugs, however. Other inflammatory disorders, including psoriasis, Crohn’s disease and ankylosing spondylitis, can be wholly or partially treated with the introduction of biologics.
Higher risk of infection is a concern
Although the efficiency of biologic drugs has been found, there is still research conducted to discover the adverse effects of the medication. The biggest side effect of biologics at this point seems to be a greater risk of infection, according to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.4 Bacterial infections, as well as a tuberculosis reactivations were most common, but additional studies into these drugs and their effects is necessary to understand them more thoroughly.4
Autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, affect millions of people across the world. With the invention of ground-breaking drugs like biologics, sufferers can find either short-term or long-term pain relief from using the drug. For medical professionals and their medical assistants, it is vital to be aware of the changes made and research completed for these synthetic drugs to best serve their patients.
1“New compound found for treating rheumatoid arthritis” Stephen Feller, United Press International, May 21, 2015. http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2015/05/21/New-compound-found-for-treating-rheumatoid-arthritis/1351432236949/
2“What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?” Arthritis Foundation, 2015. http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/rheumatoid-arthritis/what-is-rheumatoid-arthritis.php
3“What Are “Biologics” Questions and Answers” FDA, April 14, 2009. http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/OfficeofMedicalProductsandTobacco/CBER/ucm133077.htm
4“Side effects of nine commonly used biologics” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0014868/