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Shot of a young woman taking a break during a workout to use her asthma pump

Asthma Control: Better Breathing with Biologics

By Melissa Hoferer, APRN January 18, 2023 Posted in: Wellness

If you have moderate-to-severe asthma, you probably dread hearing this term: asthma exacerbation. It’s when symptoms worsen and you need inhalers and other medications to get your asthma under control.

It often means missing school or work, plus trips to your provider’s office or even the emergency room. Treatment with prednisone can cause weight gain and insomnia while you’re taking the medication, and when taken long-term can potentially increase your risk of diabetes or cardiac issues. What if there was a better way?

What Are Asthma Biologics?

Minimizing asthma exacerbations is the goal of biologics. These newer medications get to the root of what specifically is aggravating your asthma symptoms by addressing your disease on a cellular level.

For example, your eosinophils can be elevated when an allergen penetrates the skin’s epidermis and gives you those allergy-like symptoms. Certain biologics can stop that immune response at the source by preventing the build-up of eosinophils. Another biologic addresses chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps, which can aggravate asthma symptoms.

How Can I Get Prescribed Biologics?

Because each biologic works differently, prescribing them is an individual process. If you’re interested in this treatment approach, the first step is getting blood work done and completing breathing tests.

The results determine if you qualify for biologic treatment as well as what specific biologic is best for your disease process.

While the key advantage is reducing asthma exacerbations, these medications may require coming to your provider’s office for a shot every month or two weeks or using an auto-injection device at home. The fact that it’s a shot leads to the first of a handful of questions patients typically ask about biologics.

Common Questions about Asthma Biologics 

What if I don’t like shots?

In the office, we can use a topical anesthesia to numb the area before the needle is inserted. At home you can also use a lidocaine cream, which is an over-the-counter product 30 minutes before the shot to reduce or prevent pain all together. Keep in mind, auto-injector pens look like a regular pen that you hold against your skin – so you never see the needle.

Are biologics expensive?

They can be, but many drug companies have copay cards that can reduce your out-of-pocket costs significantly.

Are biologics safe?

Other than some injection-site reactions, which can be like a mosquito bite, there are not a lot of side effects. These medications have been around for awhile. For example, Nucala has been used since 2016.

Which biologic is best?

It depends on your blood work. The best biologic is the one that addresses your specific disease process. All are for moderate-to-severe asthma.

If you’re struggling with asthma symptoms, don’t hesitate to talk to your provider. Even if a biologic isn’t for you, there may be something else we can do. Our goal is always to help you better manage your disease and enjoy more of your life.

Melissa Hoferer, APRN
Melissa Hoferer, APRN

Melissa Hoferer, APRN works at CHI Health Good Samaritan Clinic. She earned a Master of Science Degree, specializing in acute care from the University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha Division, where she also earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

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