Biologic and advanced therapies for autoimmune conditions
The immune system is your body's natural defence system. It protects your body from infections.
If you have an inflammatory or autoimmune condition, your immune system attacks healthy parts of your body like an infection by mistake. We can treat some inflammatory and autoimmune conditions with biologic medicines and advanced therapies.
- Biologic medicines: These medicines can target specific parts of your immune system to slow inflammation. Rather than being made by chemical processes, biologic medicines are produced by living things (organisms) like cells.
- Advanced therapies: These medicines use stem cells. They are special cells that can become different types of cells in the body. This means that advanced therapies can use stem cells to create new, healthy cells and restore damaged ones.
You usually give yourself injections of these types of medicines at home.
We give you more information if we think that biologic or advanced therapy treatment is right for you. If you agree to have this type of treatment, you first need screening tests to check that it is suitable.
You have some blood tests. After your blood tests, your doctor or nurse refers you to the online (virtual) biologic clinic. You do not need to go to any appointments for this.
We usually hold the virtual biologic clinic every week. A consultant, pharmacist and nurse review your notes and blood test results. They make sure that it's suitable and safe for you to have this medicine.
After the clinic, we contact you if you need any more tests or we need more information. If we approve the medicine for you, we send you a text message. This takes up to 2 weeks.
Delivering your medicine
We send your prescription to the pharmacy for more checks. When your prescription is ready, we send it to a homecare company. They prepare and deliver the medicine to you. We work with several different homecare companies.
The homecare company registers your new account. This can take up to 2 weeks. They then contact you and organise a delivery date. You must be at home to sign for the medicine when it is delivered.
Storing your medicine
Most medicines are stored in the fridge. You need to put them in the fridge as soon as they are delivered.
When you take medicine out of the fridge and it warms to room temperature, you cannot put this back in the fridge to use later. Only take out what you need for each treatment.
The homecare company gives you a manual that shows you how to inject your medicine. There are also videos available online that your doctor or nurse can share with you. Sometimes, the homecare company can organise training if you need more support.
Contact us if you would prefer to do your first injection in the clinic. We can book you an appointment to see a nurse.
You have a blood test 3 months after starting your medicine. We send you an appointment for this.
You must come to the blood test appointment to continue with your treatment. We need to check your response to the medicine and make sure that we can safely give you another prescription.
Some medicines involve having blood tests more often than others. If you are not sure, please ask your nurse or email: [email protected]
Please check regularly how much medicine you have left. If you only have 4 weeks of medicine left and the homecare company has not arranged a delivery, please email us.
If you contact us when you have less than 4 weeks of medicine left, we cannot guarantee that you will get your new delivery on time.
If you are planning a trip abroad, contact the homecare company that supplies your medicine. They can give you guidance and a letter to travel with your medicine.
If you need regular blood tests and will be away when your next one is due, you might have to arrange the tests abroad. Please email our nursing team if you need more help.
Live vaccines use small amounts of a live germ (virus or bacteria) that has been weakened. It is not safe for you to have live vaccines while taking biologic medicine. This includes (but is not limited to) the:
- rotavirus vaccine (rotavirus is a stomach bug that causes sickness and diarrhoea)
- MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine
- nasal flu vaccine (given as a spray into the nose)
- BCG vaccine for tuberculosis (a serious infection that affects the lungs and sometimes other parts of the body)
- yellow fever vaccine (yellow fever is a serious infection spread by mosquitoes)
- oral (by mouth) typhoid vaccine (typhoid fever is a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body)
- Zostavax vaccine for shingles (a painful skin condition with a rash)
Surgery and dental work
If you are having surgery or invasive dental procedures, you might need to stop your biologic medicine a few weeks before this treatment. Please contact your rheumatology team if you have any questions or concerns.
If you are unwell or have an infection, you need to stop your biologic medicine for a short time or until you have finished any antibiotics. You can start your biologic medicine again when you have recovered.
If you have a faulty injection device, contact the homecare company. They can collect the device and replace it.
Resource number: 5266/VER1
Last reviewed: December 2021
Next review due: December 2024