What Are Biologics?
Biologics are medicines derived from human or animal proteins, rather than ones created by a process of combining chemicals. Insulin, which is used by some individuals with diabetes to compensate for an insufficient production of this substance within the body, is an example of a biologic. A common biologic used to treat psoriasis is Humira, which blocks inflammation-inducing signals in the immune system.
Humira is designed to be injected every other week. Other biologics may be injected weekly, or even twice a week.
How Do I Perform A Self-Injection?Some biologics are given through a subcutaneous injection, meaning that the drug is deposited into the layer of fatty tissue just under the skin. Others, such as Alefacept, are given via intramuscular (into the muscle) injection, which can result in mild soreness for hours after being given. Biologics such as Infliximab are given via intravenous injection, which means the drug is delivered straight into the bloodstream through a vein.
Your medication may come in prefilled syringes or in a vial of powder that must be mixed with fluid. Specific instructions for preparing the dose will vary, and you should be sure to read any injection package inserts thoroughly. General instructions are as follows:
1. Start with clean hands; it is important to wash them thoroughly to prevent infection.
2. Gather necessary equipment. Make sure you have:
- Your medication; either a prefilled syringe or one you have prepared according to the instructions
- The size and type of needle and syringe recommended by your doctor or pharmacist
- A small, sterile gauze pad
- Alcohol pads
- A trash can that remains out of reach of pets and children
3. Prepare the injection site. Your doctor or nurse may have already shown you the best places on your body to give the shot. These locations can include the thighs and the abdomen -- places where it is easy to pinch a bit of fatty tissue between your fingers.
Once you have decided where to give the shot:
- Cleanse the skin with an alcohol swab by rubbing the swab it in a circular motion over the intended injection site. Allow the alcohol to air dry, or dry it off with your sterile gauze.
- Uncap the needle and hold it with one hand, as you would a pencil. With your other hand, pinch the skin at the injection site between your thumb and forefinger to provide a fold of skin for the injection.
- With the needle fully inserted, let go of the skin you are pinching. Use this free hand to stabilize the base of the syringe.
- Pull back on the syringe plunger slightly, in order to see if any blood is drawn into the syringe as a result. If blood does appear in the syringe, this may mean that the needle may have entered a blood vessel instead of fatty tissue. Injecting the medication into a blood vessel may cause it to be absorbed too quickly. Pull the needle out, replace the cap and begin the injection procedure again if this occurs.
- If no blood enters the syringe, inject the medication slowly and steadily.
- Once the injection is complete, apply a piece of gauze to the injection site and firmly hold it over the skin as you pull the needle out. This will keep the skin from pulling back with the needle, which can be uncomfortable. Apply some pressure to the gauze over the injection site for one to two minutes before removing.
National Institutes of Health Staff. "Giving A Subcutaneous Injection." NIH.gov. 2002. National Institutes of Health. 8 May 2008 <http://www.cc.nih.gov/ccc/patient_education/pepubs/subq.pdf>.
National Psoriasis Foundation Staff. "Biologics." Psoriasis.org. Oct. 2006. National Psoriasis Foundation. 8 May 2008 <http://www.psoriasis.org/treatment/psoriasis/biologics/>.
National Psoriasis Foundation Staff. "Who Can Take Biologics?." Psoriasis.org. Nov. 2006. National Psoriasis Foundation. 8 May 2008 <http://www.psoriasis.org/treatment/psoriasis/biologics/taking.php.>