What Are Biologics?
What you need to know – and how this FDA-approved treatment can help alleviate the symptoms of EOE.
Biologics are the name given to medical treatments that are derived from a living source – humans, animals, or microorganisms – or products derived from them. These medical therapies or “biopharmaceuticals” as they’re sometimes referred to have been used to treat the symptoms of diseases from rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases to diabetes and cancer.
Biopharmaceuticals are designed to target specific areas of the body, in many cases the parts of the immune system that are triggering the underlying inflammation (and symptoms) of a particular disease.
Now, for the first time, biologics have been approved by the FDA to treat eosinophilic esophagitis or EOE, a chronic and progressive allergic inflammatory disease of the esophagus.
Type 2 Inflammation and EOE
Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell that are part of our body’s natural defenses, our immune system; they’re “good guys” circulating in the blood to combat and get rid of parasites and allergens that can negatively affect our health. Too many of these immune cells in one area of the body, however, can cause adverse effects – triggering chronic or long-term type 2 allergic inflammation and its accompanying symptoms. Over time, consistently high numbers of these immune cells can cause tissue damage and scarring.
In patients with EOE, eosinophils build up in the esophagus, triggering inflammation and the symptoms of EOE that include difficulty swallowing, frequent acid reflux or heartburn, vomiting after eating, nausea, and the persistent feeling that you have something stuck in your throat. If EOE goes untreated, however, scarring and permanent narrowing of the esophagus can occur.
The FDA’s approval of biologics for EOE marks the first-ever approval of a treatment for this disease.
The FDA approval was granted after a large clinical trial of patients. This clinical trial showed that biologics helped reduce the number of eosinophils found in the esophagus after 24 weeks of once-weekly injections, making it easier for patients to swallow food.1
Patients who used the biologics for EOE also experienced a reduction in abnormal endoscopic findings in the esophagus.2 (A tissue biopsy of the esophagus, conducted via an endoscope – a long, flexible scope with a camera at the end – is the only way to formally diagnose EOE.)
1 “FDA Approves First Treatment for Eosinophilic Esophagitis, a Chronic Immune Disorder.” FDA News Release. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (May 20, 2022).
2 “FDA Approves First Treatment for Eosinophilic Esophagitis, a Chronic Immune Disorder.” FDA News Release. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (May 20, 2022).