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What are biopharmaceuticals?

Biopharmaceuticals are known by various names, e.g. biologics or biopharmaceutical, biologicals. Biopharmaceuticals are drugs that are produced using genetically modified organisms and the possibilities of biotechnology. The best-known areas of application for biopharmaceuticals are in the fields of vaccines, insulins, rheumatism therapy or hormones.

The first biopharmaceuticals came onto the market in the 1970s, and now the field of biopharmaceuticals is considered to have great growth potential: there are currently around 35,000 patents available for filing.

Even if biopharmaceuticals are produced from genetically modified organisms, their benefit for patients has already been proven in many cases - an example is insulin, which makes life easier for many diabetes patients. In recent years, biopharmaceuticals have been shown to be effective in alleviating symptoms, particularly in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, only a few years' experience is available here, as the use of biopharmaceuticals in rheumatology does not yet permit any long-term findings. In addition, current efficacy studies (IQWiG) refer exclusively to so-called "second-line treatments", i.e. treatments that are only started after previous therapies have been unsuccessful or have had only limited success.

Although many drugs have shown positive results and many doctors prescribe biopharmaceuticals, these drugs are repeatedly criticized primarily because of their side effects. For example, the mode of action of biopharmaceuticals, which suppresses the human immune system, can lead to an increase in infections. However, this is only about 8% and studies (IQWiG) have rarely found serious infections. Nevertheless, there is a risk that the risk of infection is higher due to the suppression of the immune system by biopharmaceuticals than without treatment by biopharmaceuticals.

In terms of efficacy, there are currently still few comparative studies available. Not all active ingredients are really convincing in terms of efficacy, and with different biopharmaceuticals developed to treat the same disease, comparative studies are often not completely conclusive. In the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, however, efficacy studies have found a slight improvement in symptoms and thus an improvement in quality of life by some patients.

In contrast to biosimilars, biopharmaceuticals are prescribed relatively frequently by physicians, and biopharmaceuticals are also used in hospitals. However, a precise weighing of the expected benefit must be carried out by the treating physician. With appropriate information and monitoring of the respective patient, biopharmaceuticals can be good therapeutic options for second-line treatment - depending on the status and history of the respective patient.

Author: Niccolina. Translation. Image: felixioncool / pixabay.