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FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars

Drug Class: Commonly Known As: Category:
Children, Adult

FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars - What is it for


Your doctor is considering a "biologic" or "biosimilar" to treat your condition. Do not be alarmed by the term. It simply means the medicine is derived from animal or human proteins and not from chemical substances.

They reduce uncontrolled immune reaction and inflammation in your joints, skin, muscles and gut. In turn, lessen symptoms, improve outcomes and quality of life.

Biologics are very expensive because of the high cost of inventing, manufacturing and studying them, therefore biosimilars (generic equivalent of biologics) can be marketed once the patent on the original biologic has expired. Biosimilars are cheaper, yet comparable in terms of quality, safety and efficacy to their version of an approved biologics.

How do biologics and biosimilars work?

Biologics and biosimilars target specific parts of the immune system. It can block actions of specific type of immune cell such as white blood cells called T-cell or B-cell. It can also block proteins in the immune system such as tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin (IL) 17-A, IL-12, IL-23, IL-6, interferon and CD-20 (protein found on B-cell). These cells or proteins are known to be involved in the inflammation process of various medical conditions.

​Biologics and biosimilars grouped by how they work (non-exhaustive)
​TNF-alpha blocker
​IL-1 blocker
​IL-6 blocker
​IL-17 blocker
​IL-12/23 blocker
​B-cell blocker
​T-cell blocker





They are indicated in a wide range of medical conditions such as:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis (AS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn's Disease (CD) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC)
  • Juvenile (children) arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Psoriasis
  • Psoriatic arthritis (PsA)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Scleroderma

FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars - Side Effects, Precautions, and Contraindications

What side effects can FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars cause?

  • Increased risk of infection such as upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), urinary tract infection (UTI) and skin infections. If you get an infection while on biologic or biosimilar, inform your healthcare professional so it can be treated immediately.

  • Reactivation of certain infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B or Tuberculosis (TB). Your doctor will order tests to assess your risk and decide on treatment before starting a biologic or biosimilar. In addition, your doctor will ensure your vaccination status is updated to further reduce your risk of getting an infection.

  • Allergic reactions such as shortness of breath, chills, itchiness, redness or swelling around the eyes/lips/skin may develop. If you experience any of such symptoms, stop the medicine and see your healthcare professional so it can be treated immediately.
Side effects for biologics and biosimilars ​ ​

Common > 10%

Infection such as cold, upper respiratory infection, sinusitis, mild injection site reactions such as redness and pain

Uncommon 1-3%

Severe infection require hospitalisation, severe infusion reactions.

Central nervous system reaction such as sudden vision problems or any numbness or tingling.

Cardiac (heart) issues which may manifest as shortness of breath or sudden swelling of the ankles.

Rare < 1 in 1000

Reactivation of Tuberculosis (TB), Shingles, Hepatitis B, cancer of the blood, skin or lung, another immune diseases such as lupus-like syndrome (which may appear as rash that gets worse when exposed to the sun or new joint pains)

Inform your healthcare professional immediately if you experience any of these or other unexplained symptoms.

Before taking FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars , what precautions must I follow?

What food or medicine must I avoid when I take FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars ?

FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars - Dosage and How to Use

How should FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars be used?

​Biologics and biosimilars are given by subcutaneous injection (injected into fat tissue under the skin) or intravenous infusion (injected directly into a vein) because the proteins can be damaged by stomach acid if given by mouth. Infusions will require administration by a healthcare professional while self-injection can be performed by patient or caregiver at home. 

The injection may be given daily, weekly, every few weeks or every year. Your doctor will discuss with you which biologic or biosimilar is right (most effective and safest) for you, how to administer and how often to be given.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

What should I do if I overdose?

FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars - Handling

How should I handle FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars safely?

FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars - Storage

How should I store FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars ?

Consult your healthcare professional for more information on storage condition for specific medicine.

How should I dispose of FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars safely?

FAQs on Biologics and Biosimilars - Additional Information

  • Updated on 3/26/2018 12:00:00 AM
  • Article contributed by Pharmacy Sengkang General Hospital, Singapore General Hospital
The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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