What patients need to know about biologic infusions for IBD treatment

Biologics, unlike chemical medications, are made materials found in living microorganisms, plants or animal cells. Biologics are antibodies created in a laboratory that selectively bind and block a small protein that promotes inflammation in the intestine as well as other organs and tissues. Unlike certain steroids, which affect the whole body and may cause major side effects, biologic agents act more selectively to target the source of uncomfortable symptoms.

Medical therapy of IBD is complex and the primary aim of biologic therapy is to reduce the generalized inflammatory response, thus alleviating symptoms for long-term relief.

What is an IV infusion?

Intravenous means ‘into a vein’. Medicines and other fluids can be given directly via a vein into your bloodstream. During biologic treatments, a thin tube – called a cannula – is inserted into a vein in your arm or hand using a needle. The cannula is then connected by an IV line to an infusion pump that delivers the medication. Infusion therapy controls the speed in which medicines enter your bloodstream over a determined amount of time.

How often will I need infusions?

The infusion medications we offer for the treatment of IBD are:

  • Remicade
  • Entyvio
  • Cimzia
  • Stelara
  • Inflectra

Each medication has a different dosing timeline, but infusions are generally more frequent after your first dose (every few weeks) then taper off to maintenance infusions every 2-3 months depending on the medication and your response to the drug. If your body isn’t responding after your first few doses or you have significant side effects, your health care team may stop treatment or try another type of biologic.

How long do infusions take?

Depending on the drug, infusions generally take between two and four hours. Your health care provider will give you specific details about the length of your infusions, so you can plan your day accordingly. Our infusion centers offer a private, quiet and comfortable space for your infusion therapy. You will also be constantly monitored by our skilled nursing staff.

When should I ask my doctor about biologics?

There is no one-size-fits all treatment for IBD. Your gastroenterologist will take into consideration the severity of your disease, what treatments have/haven’t worked, current or potential complications and the rest of your medical history. Generally, biologic treatment is discussed when your body hasn’t been receptive to other types of treatments, you’ve already undergone surgery due to disease complications or you’re young and newly diagnosed.

IBD can be a devastating disease, but remission is possible. Talk to your gastroenterologist about treatment options.