Infusion Confusion?

For patients with Crohn’s disease, finding out that a recommended treatment could include infusions of biologic medications can bring up a lot of questions. Let’s answer some of those here.

Infusion medications are prescribed for some patients to help keep the Crohn’s disease in remission. For most situations, getting an infusion involves going to an outpatient treatment center or perhaps a hospital for the procedure; sometimes the infusion can be done at home by a nurse. During the infusion, the patient sits in a chair and biologic medications are injected into a vein, slowly, over an hour or even multiple hours. The amount of time needed depends on which biologic is prescribed.

Infusions are not the first-line treatment for Crohn’s; other medications are tried initially. Biologic medications include antibodies and immune compounds which help stop inflammation in the body. It can take several weeks of treatment before beneficial effects are noticed, but infusions can result in long-term remission for some patients.

There are three main categories of biologics for Crohn’s disease:

  • Anti-tumor necrosis factor: Medications in this category include Humira (adalimumab), Cimzia (certolizumab pegol), and Remicade (infliximab).
  • Integrin receptor antagonists: Tysabri (natalizumab) and Entyvio (vedolizumab) are medications in this category.
  • Anti-interleukin-12 and interleukin-23 therapy: Stelara (ustekinumab) is as example; it can be a one-time infusion followed by self-administered injections.

Some people experience allergic reactions with infusions, which is part of the reason (at least initially) that infusions are performed at a medical facility. In addition, patients recommended to start infusions should ensure that they are up-to-date on their immunizations, since there can be some compromised immunity.

Granted, infusions do come with some risks, but they can also be the best chance for some patients to keep Crohn’s disease symptoms at bay.