Biologics for Ankylosing Spondylitis: How They Work  

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that basically affects the spinal joints and other large joints in the body, such as the hips and shoulders.

Inflammation happens as a result of the immune system activities, causing joint fusing in sections of the spine, which often leads to pain, swelling, and stiffness. This effect makes it hard to move and difficult to complete everyday tasks.

Although there’s no particular cure for this disease, different treatments can help slow down the disease progression and ease symptoms. After diagnosis your healthcare provider will develop a treatment plan for you.

Symptoms of AS can range from mild to severe. In the case of mild symptoms, it can be managed with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), [1] such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).

If these drugs are not effective enough and there’s no improvement, prescription medications are the next line of defense.

Prescription drugs as a treatment for AS should only be prescribed to you by your doctor. Examples of prescription drugs used for AS include disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to decrease the inflammation immune activity causes. [2]

Although they’re unable to target the exact cause of it, NSAIDs and DMARDs are both designed to stop inflammation.

Sometimes the pain and stiffness AS brings about doesn’t respond well to these prescription medications. To help ease your symptoms, your doctor may recommend a different type of therapy called biologics for you.

What Are Biologics for AS?

Biologics are genetically engineered proteins created from living organisms that are made to perform normal biological functions.

They’re targeted therapies aimed at specific proteins in the immune system that produce inflammation, namely:

  • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)
  • Interleukin 17 (IL-17)

The first biologics was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1988 to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Since then, several other biologics have been developed.

Currently, seven types of biologics are approved for the treatment of AS. These include:

Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) Blockers

  • Adalimumab (Humira)
  • Certolizumab pegol (Cimzia)
  • Etanercept (Enbrel)
  • Golimumab (Simponi, Simponi Aria)
  • Infliximab (Remicade)

Interleukin 17 (IL–17) inhibitors

  • Secukinumab (Cosentyx)
  • Ixekizumab (Taltz)