Biologic therapies, sometimes called biologics, are a class of medications that reduce intestinal inflammation by targeting specific immune system responses. There are two classes of biologic agents used to control symptoms of IBD: anti-TNF agents and anti-integrin medications. These medications are often given long-term, sometimes along with immunomodulators.
Gastroenterologists may prescribe anti-TNF medications—which block proteins that cause inflammation in the digestive tract—if IBD is moderate to severe at the time of diagnosis or if your symptoms have not responded to other medical treatments. Anti-TNFs may also be given if symptoms such as a fistula, a hole that forms between the intestines and another organ, present an immediate risk to your health.
Anti-TNF medications are injected using a syringe or given through a vein with IV infusion. If your doctor prescribes the injectable type, he or she shows you how to give yourself the medication at home.
If IV infusion is right for you, specialists help you set up appointments at one of NYU Langone’s infusion centers, which are located in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Doctors administer IV infusion by inserting a slim, flexible tube, called a catheter, into a vein in the arm. After it is in place, doctors inject medication into the catheter. Anti-TNF infusion takes about two hours.
Your gastroenterologist determines the frequency of IV infusions based on several factors, including the severity of the disease.
Anti-integrin therapy may be prescribed for people with severe IBD whose symptoms have not responded to other medications. This therapy prevents inflammation-causing white blood cells, called lymphocytes, from binding to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
Anti-integrin medications are administered through IV infusion. The duration of infusion therapy can vary from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on which medication is given.
The appropriate frequency of anti-integrin IV infusions is different for everyone. Your gastroenterologist recommends the most effective schedule for you based on certain factors, including the severity of the disease.