According to IQVIA, Americans paid $67 billion in out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions filled by retail pharmacies in 2019. 

Unfortunately, a variety of factors including growing technology, chronic conditions, and obesity continue to drive up drug prices in addition to new medications and increased use of high-cost meds year after year. The cost of prescriptions is one of the fastest-growing components of rising healthcare costs in the United States. 

With COVID-19 adding another level of complexity to healthcare, employers are finding it even more challenging than pre-pandemic to cut costs while still providing quality health care benefits to their employees. 

As a result, Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) are becoming more and more popular.  

What are Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs)?

PBMs have been around a lot longer than many realize. When insurance companies added prescription drugs to many health care benefits in the 1960s, the PBM role was created. Initially, PBMs would process claims for insurance claims. However, their role has evolved tremendously over the years. 

The role of a Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM)

Today, PBMs are third-party administrators contracted by employers to provide prescription drug benefit management to their employees. They are also responsible for:

  • examining claims 
  • developing and managing pharmacy networks
  • negotiating discounts and rebates with drug manufacturers
  • developing and maintaining drug formularies
  • establishing co-pays
  • setting criteria for prior authorizations and the patient’s choice of pharmacy

In addition, a PBM provides resources and programs created to assist members in maintaining/improving their overall health. Working side by side with the member and their healthcare provider, a PBM can ensure the medications members take are safe and effective for their health conditions.

PBM companies in the United States

More than 80 PBM companies currently in the US offer consumers a wide range of drug plan options.

However, the healthcare system’s complexity combined with the urge to consolidate negotiating power has caused several PBMs, insurance companies, and pharmacies to merge. 

Coincidentally, the top three PBM companies as of 2020 are:

What employers need to know about working with a PBM

If you are an employer, working with PBMs allows you to improve prescription medication use, lower health care costs, and improve patient quality of care for your employees. 

From the beginning, you should expect your PBM to work with you to build the ideal pharmacy benefit plan for your employees by choosing:

Once your plan is finalized, your PBM can distribute benefits and familiarize employees with their health care coverage. Educational resources often include call centers, websites, and apps to easily access information about co-pays for different medications, pharmacies currently in-network, etc. 

How PBMs work with insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and pharmacies

PBMs help insurance companies manage costs by negotiating with pharmaceutical manufacturers for discounts on medications. PBMs get the manufacturer’s drugs in front of millions of customers in exchange.

They also negotiate contracts with pharmacies to build networks of retail pharmacies for prescription drug distribution. 

Value of working with Pharmacy Benefit Managers 

Cost Savings

There are several ways PBMs create cost-savings:

  • Negotiating discounts with pharmacies
  • Offering cost-effective options such as pharmacy mail order fulfillment
  • Guiding plan participants to more generic and lower-cost brands

Insight & understanding

PBMs can provide the employers they are working with reports about medicine utilization. This information helps decrease drug waste while supporting medication compliance 

Up-to-date knowledge and expertise

Since PBMs are working directly with insurance and pharmaceutical companies, they can stay current with changes in prescription drugs. Employers then have the advantage of knowing industry changes in pricing, safety, and effectiveness. 

Final thoughts

The continual increase in prescription drug costs will emphasize managing the prescription drug benefit for employers.

It’s critical for companies to understand the role of their PBM, how they fit into their overall spending, and changes needed to their current health care plans to ensure that their members are constantly receiving the best possible care at the lowest possible cost.

At Speciality Infusion Centers, we specialize in managing chronic conditions and work with you, your insurance carrier, and your doctor to provide a personalized treatment plan. Find the most convenient location for starting infusion therapy today. 

Reclast (also marketed under the generic name zoledronic acid) is a bisphosphonate medication used to prevent or treat Osteoporosis or Paget’s Disease. However, unlike other bisphosphonates, Reclast bypasses the stomach because it’s given as an infusion, going right into the bloodstream.

If you or someone you know is suffering from either Paget’s Disease or Osteoporosis, Reclast may be able to help. We put this guide including essential information you should know regarding Reclast to help you decide if it could be the right treatment for you. Always consult with your physician before starting new medicines. 

What are Osteoporosis and Paget’s Disease?

Osteoporosis 

Our bones are living tissue that are regularly being broken down and regenerated.  Osteoporosis occurs when new bone can’t keep up with the loss of old bone, causing bones to become weak and brittle. They can become so fragile that a cough or bending over could cause a fracture. These fractures often occur in the hip, wrist, or spine.

Paget’s Disease 

The human body has a recycling process in which new bone tissue slowly replaces old bone tissue. Paget’s Disease of bone interferes with this method, causing bones to become fragile and misshapen over time. 

The most commonly affected areas are:

  • Pelvis
  • Skull
  • Spine
  • Legs

Complications and Symptoms 

Osteoporosis 

As there are typically no symptoms in the early stages, Osteoporosis can at first be silent. As Osteoporosis causes the bones to become weaker over time, symptoms may include:

  • Back pain
  • Loss of height over time
  • A stooped posture
  • A bone that breaks/fractures easily

In particular, spine and hip fractures may cause chronic pain and disability or possibly, death. 

Paget’s Disease 

Many people with Paget’s Disease are asymptomatic or develop mild symptoms. Others may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • bone pain
  • joint pain (especially in the back, hips, and knees) 
  • headache 
  • enlargement and bowing of the thighs (femurs) and lower legs (tibias)
  • enlarged skull in the forehead area 

Risk Factors of Osteoporosis and Paget’s Disease 

Knowing the risk factors for both of these conditions is important to help take steps to prevent or treat them before they become worse.

Osteoporosis Risk Factors

Major risk factors that you can’t control include:

  • Menopause/aging 
  • White or Asian descent
  • Small bone structure
  • Parents with a history of a broken hip
  • Prior fracture, particularly after age 50

Other risks factors for Osteoporosis include:

  • Low levels of sex hormones, mainly estrogen in women 
  • Eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia)
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Insufficient calcium and vitamin D, either from low intake in your diet or inadequate absorption in your gut
  • Inactive lifestyle or immobility
  • Certain medications
  • Diagnosis of diseases that can affect bones, like Cushing’s Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Hyperthyroidism

Paget’s Disease of Bone Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of Paget’s Disease include:

  • Over the age of 50 
  • Male
  • National origin- common in England, Scotland, central Europe, Greece, and countries settled by European immigrants. 
  • Family history of the disease 

What is Reclast, and How Does it Work? 

Reclast belongs to the class of medications known as bisphosphonates, which prevent bone loss and reduce calcium released from the bones. It’s only available through a prescription and comes in the form of an injection.

This medication treats bone loss caused by menopause, steroid use, or low hormone levels. It may also be prescribed for those who have been on corticosteroid medications, like prednisone, for a long time. 

Reclast binds to osteoclasts (bone cells), inhibiting the process of bone breakdown. As a result, Reclast decreases the rate of bone loss, promoting normal bone formation.

How Do You Use Reclast to Treat or Prevent Osteoporosis and Paget’s Disease? 

Reclast is given as an infusion by a healthcare provider and only requires administration every year when treating Osteoporosis and every two years for preventing Osteoporosis.

The dosage amount depends on each patient’s medical condition, kidney function, and response to treatment.

For patients with high blood calcium levels, IV fluids are given before Reclast is injected. Many people are also instructed to drink plenty of fluids before treatment begins to prevent kidney issues. Your infusion provider should consult with you beforehand for prep instructions. 

What are the Side Effects of Reclast?

Side effects may occur when using Reclast. Call your doctor if any of these symptoms don’t go away or get worse. 

These side effects include:

  • Bone, muscle, and joint pain
  • Flu-like illness*
  • Headache

*The flu-like symptoms generally disappear after 24-48 hours and usually occur only after the first injection

Serious side effects can also occur. If you experience any allergic reactions, hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat, let your healthcare professional administering the injection know right away. 

While cases are rare, some people have experienced low calcium levels in the blood (hypocalcemia), severe kidney issues, and severe bone, joint, and muscle pain. These symptoms are reported from 1 day to one month after starting any bisphosphonate, including Reclast. 

Medication Interactions with Reclast

You should always disclose to your healthcare provider all other medications you are taking before starting Reclast, especially if you are taking:

Final Thoughts

Reclast may be the best treatment for you or someone you know who suffers from Osteoporosis or Paget’s Disease.

At Speciality Infusion Centers, we specialize in helping to manage chronic conditions and work with you, your insurance carrier, and your healthcare doctor to provide a personalized treatment plan. Find the most convenient location for starting infusion therapy today. 

If you or a loved one have ever had to start treatment for cancer, you are most likely already familiar with chemotherapy through infusion therapy. However, did you know infusion therapy also treats several other diseases and ailments? 

From Myasthenia Gravis and Crohn’s disease to psoriatic arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease, infusion therapy is proving to be effective and efficient at managing many different medical conditions. 

We put together this article to explain infusion therapy, its benefits, what ailments it can treat, and what to expect when getting infusion treatments.

What is infusion therapy?

Infusion therapy refers to different kinds of medication or fluids that are administered through a 

needle or catheter, usually intravenously (IV). Healthcare professionals can also deliver it in other ways such as:

  • Under the skin 
  • Into the muscles 
  • Into the fluid around the spine (epidural)
  • Into a body cavity (like the abdomen)
  • Directly to a specific body part 

Certain drugs can’t be taken orally due to their decreased effectiveness when exposed to the digestive system. Infusion therapy is an alternative when there’s no other comparable oral therapy, or someone cannot take an oral form of the medication. It’s also a way of delivering medication that must be administered at a controlled pace.

Where do you go for infusion therapies?

  • Doctor’s office
  • Infusion clinic
  • In-home with the help of a visiting nurse
  • In the hospital

Infusion therapy for cancer treatment

Cancer treatment options, chemotherapy and immunotherapy, are often given by infusion. 

While some chemotherapy medications can be taken by mouth, many are administered through an IV. Infusion therapy allows the delivery of chemotherapy drugs to pass directly into your bloodstream slowly to lessen side effects. The IV also enables you to receive other medications, like anti-nausea drugs, without the need for more needles. 

Other cancer therapies, like immunotherapies, are made from monoclonal antibodies and given through an IV. Considered biologic drugs, monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that act as substitute antibodies to repair, improve or copy the immune system’s attack on cells. 

Other conditions infusion therapy is used for

In addition to cancer therapies, infusion and injection treatments are used for several other health concerns, illnesses, and diseases, such as :

Side effects of infusion therapy

Redness, swelling, and pain at the infusion site are common. However, if you experience any of the following while getting your infusion, let the nurse/IV administrator know immediately:

  • Itching, rashes, or hives
  • Swelling of any part of your body, including lips, eyelids, or tongue
  • A flush of redness in your face and neck
  • Fever or chills
  • Cough 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Pain in muscles or joints

You may also experience side effects specific to the medication you’re receiving by infusion. Consult with your healthcare provider about these possible side effects. 

Final thoughts

Infusion therapy has been used for a long time by hospitals worldwide. However, it’s readily becoming available in outpatient healthcare settings and patients’ homes by specialized nurses/healthcare professionals who are professionally trained to administer these IVs. 

At Speciality Infusion Centers, we specialize in managing chronic conditions and work with you, your insurance carrier, and your healthcare doctor to provide a personalized treatment plan. Find the most convenient location for starting infusion therapy today. 

Biologics and biosimilar drugs might be two terms that you’re not familiar with regarding prescription medications. However, they are a lot more common than most people think. 

Have you ever seen advertisements for Humira? Do you know about the flu and shingles vaccine? If you answered yes to either of those questions, you are well on your way to becoming familiar with biologics and biosimilar drugs.

We put together this guide to help you better understand what biologics and biosimilar drugs are and the differences between the two. 

What are biologics?

Biologics are a class of prescription drugs that are made using living systems, such as microorganisms, plant cells, or animal cells. Since biologics come from diverse sources that can be hard to identify, they also tend to be more complex in their composition than conventional drugs. Even so, all biologics are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  

What are biologics used for?

There are many complex conditions biologics have been approved to help treat. Some of these conditions include:

  •  Crohn’s disease
  •  Ulcerative colitis
  •  Diabetes
  •  Rheumatoid arthritis
  •  Cancer
  •  Osteoporosis
  •  Psoriasis
  •  Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  •  Multiple sclerosis
  •  Growth deficiencies

How are biologics different from traditional drugs?

Traditional pharmaceutical drugs are made from chemicals, whereas biologics come from living organisms. Thus they have a more complex structure, larger molecules, and are not easily reproduced by following a “chemical recipe“. 

Examples of biologics

Biologics are usually administered by injection or infusion. This is due to the fact that if they are taken orally, the process of digestion would break down the biologic, likely making it ineffective.

Examples of biologics currently available include:

What are biosimilar drugs?

Biosimilar drugs are a very similar copy of the original FDA-approved biologic drug, known as the reference product. The biosimilar presents no significant differences in its safety or efficacy from the biologic product. 

The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCI Act) of 2009 was created as an “abbreviated licensure pathway” for biological products to : 

  • provide more treatment options
  • increase access to lifesaving medications
  • possibly lower health care costs through competition

Are biosimilars the same as generic drugs?

Unlike generic drugs, biosimilars are not identical copies of their reference drugs. However, each biosimilar drug is manufactured in a complex process that includes the exact steps made to make the biologic medication. Still, small changes are common from batch to batch since biosimilars are made from living cells. 

These variations are expected and acceptable because every lot is still required to meet the same high standards of purity, safety, and efficacy as per the guidelines of the FDA.

Examples of biosimilar drugs

Like biologic drugs, biosimilars are also FDA-approved and only available with a prescription from a healthcare professional. Some examples of biosimilars include:

  • Byooviz
  • Semglee
  • Riabni
  • Hulio
  • Nyvepria
  • Avsola
  • Abrilada
  • Ziextenzo

Differences between biologic and biosimilar drugs

A biosimilar is extremely similar to the biologic and has no significant clinically differences from another biologic already FDA-approved. 

This means that biosimilars:

  • Are administered the same way as the original biologic
  • Have the same strength and dosage form as compared to the original biologic
  • Have the same possible side effects as the original biologic
  • Provide the same potential treatment benefits as the original biologic

As stated earlier, because there is no “chemical recipe” to follow when making biologics, biosimilars are generally made with the same natural sources as the reference product, but could have slight variations.

Final thoughts

Biologics and biosimilar are some of the fastest-growing segments of the prescription product market. As the FDA continues to approve additional biosimilar medications, patients will have more treatment options and potentially less expensive alternatives.

You can access the FDA’s purple Book database for more information about biologic and biosimilar drugs. 

At Speciality Infusion Centers, we specialize in managing chronic conditions and work with you, your insurance carrier, and your healthcare doctor to provide a personalized treatment plan. Find the most convenient location for you to start on your biologic/biosimilar IV therapy today. 

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that causes weakness in the eyeballs and eyelids and progresses to the head, neck, limb, and respiratory muscles. Communication impairment between nerve cells and muscles prevents muscle contractions from occurring, resulting in muscle weakness.

According to the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America, MG is relatively rare, affecting only between 14 and 20 out of every 100,000 people in the United States. However, it’s the most common primary disorder of neuromuscular transmission. 

While there is no cure for MG, a few different treatment options are available. Rituximab (Rituxan) is an infusion therapy prescribed for patients who don’t respond to other treatments. However, a newer IV treatment with monoclonal antibodies, Soliris (eculizumab), has become the first antibody-based complement inhibitor approved in the U.S., Europe, and Japan to treat adults suffering from generalized MG.

What are the symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis?

The main symptom of MG is weakness in the skeletal muscles (muscles under your control) which occurs due to the muscles not contracting normally. When the body’s muscles fail to contract, they can’t respond to nerve impulses leading to blocked communication between the nerve and muscle.

Weakness from MG typically gets worse when the body is more active and improves with rest. Other symptoms of MG include:

  • trouble talking/hoarse voice
  • problems walking up the stairs or lifting objects
  • facial paralysis
  • difficulty breathing due to muscle weakness
  • difficulty swallowing/chewing
  • fatigue
  • drooping of eyelids
  • double vision

MG is a unique disease as not everyone will experience every symptom, and muscle weakness can change from day to day for each patient. Symptoms will most likely get more severe over time if left untreated. 

What causes Myasthenia Gravis?

There are two leading causes of MG. Many people with MG have antibodies which instead of  helping to fight off infections, viruses, and other threats to the body, mistakenly destroy, damage, or block acetylcholine receptors. Fewer receptors result in the muscles becoming weaker due to not contracting correctly.

In some cases, the immune system attacks other proteins, such as muscle-specific kinase, which is essential for helping to maintain the function of the neuromuscular junction.

While the specific cause of the abnormal autoimmune response is unknown, researchers believe that the thymus gland may help trigger or support the production of the harmful antibodies that interrupt nerve-muscle communication.

How Soliris works

By binding to the C5 protein, Soliris works by blocking and preventing the generation of the terminal complement cascade (TCC), a part of the immune system that consists of a series of reactions that trigger the adverse immune response

Possible side effects of Soliris

As with any medication, there is a risk of side effects when taking Soliris. Common side effects include:

  • headache
  • tiredness/fatigue
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • muscle pain
  • back pain
  • cold symptoms (stuffy nose, sneezing, or sore throat)

Although rare, serious side effects may occur. You should reach out to your doctor if you experience:

  • signs of infection (fever, persistent cough or sore throat, painful or frequent urination),
  • muscle cramps
  • swelling hands/ankles/feet,
  • fast heartbeat
  • changes in the amount of urine output

Soliris is administered through an infusion, so you should let your doctor or nurse know if you experience the following symptoms during your treatment:

  • chest pain
  • trouble breathing/shortness of breath
  • swelling of your face, tongue, or throat
  • feeling faint or like you may pass out

Soliris in clinical trials

Clinical trials of Soliris were done on adult MG patients who had two or more failed immunosuppressive treatments over 12 months and continued to suffer from significant unresolved disease symptoms. 

Patients taking Soliris reported a 60% improvement in their quality of life. They also showed decreased symptoms, including improvement in their double vision, drooping of the eyelids, swallowing, speech, breathing, and muscle weakness. 

Final thoughts

While Soliris is not a cure for those living with MG, it has shown significant improvements in supporting improved functionality of MG patients as well as helping to treat and manage their symptoms that had not previously shown improvement with the use of previous treatments or  medications. 

Living with MG requires an individualized treatment plan that often includes medication, diet and lifestyle changes, and mental health care. Specialty Infusion Centers collaborate with your specialist to provide infusion therapy for MG based on your predetermined treatment plan. Our centers offer private suites, amenities, and flexible evening and weekend appointments. All you have to focus on is feeling better! Reach out to us to learn more or get started today. 

Forgetting where you placed your car keys, calling a family member by the wrong name, or not remembering to grab milk at the grocery store are all common memory lapses that happen to most of us from time to time. However, if memory lapses become more frequent or affect your ability to do daily activities, you might be questioning if something else is going on, like Alzheimer’s

It can be easy to explain unusual behavior and memory issues as part of the aging process, especially for someone who seems physically healthy. If someone you care about is experiencing signs of Alzheimer’s, being empowered with as much information as possible can help guide you through managing each stage of the disease and help you offer support to your loved one. We put together this guide to help you understand Alzheimer’s disease and the treatment options currently available. 

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

The CDC defines Alzheimer’s Disease as a progressive brain disease that causes memory loss and slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Alzheimer’s may cause a person to become disoriented, get lost in familiar places, lose things frequently, or have trouble communicating.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type (60-80%) of dementia. Dementia is a syndrome that causes brain changes that continuously deteriorate cognitive, behavioral, and social skills. Ultimately, this loss of skills affects a person’s ability to function independently. 

Statistics and facts about Alzheimer’s Disease 

Some quick facts and statistics that are important to know about Alzheimer’s:

  • The life expectancy after initial diagnosis is between four to eight years. However, since the progression of the disease can vary, some people can live past 20 years. 
  • Alzheimer’s disease impacts the parts of the brain that control our thought, memory, and language.
  • In 2020, around 6 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s. That number is projected to hit at least 13 million by 2050. 
  • 1 out of every 3 seniors dies from Alzheimer’s. It’s the 6th leading cause of death in the senior population in the U.S. 
  • The average age of diagnosis is 80 years old. 
  • Early-onset or young-onset Alzheimer’s is a form of disease that affects people younger than age 65. Currently, it makes up 5% to 6% of people with Alzheimer’s disease. 
  • A majority of people with early-onset Alzheimer’s exhibit symptoms of the disease between 30 and 60 years old.

Symptoms and Complications of Alzheimer’s Disease 

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s get worse over time. However, this disease affects each person differently, so symptoms often vary. 

Common symptoms include:

  • Mental decline
  • Change in moods and behavior (becoming more aggressive, agitated, or irritable)
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Forgetting familiar places and people
  • Meaningless repetition of own words
  • Difficulty with self-care 

Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease typically progresses slowly in three general stages: early, middle and late (sometimes medically referred to as mild, moderate, and severe). Just as symptoms vary from person to person, so does each patient’s rate progresses through the disease stages. 

Preclinical stage

Someone with Alzheimer’s has changes in their brain before they show any signs or symptoms. Referred to as the “preclinical” period of Alzheimer’s disease, this time can last for years. 

Early/Mild stage of Alzheimer’s

In the early or mild stage of Alzheimer’s, a person may still function independently but experience memory lapses regarding recent conversations, events, and appointments.  

Symptoms may not be obvious, but family and close friends may notice, and a doctor can identify signs using specific diagnostic tools.

Some challenges in the early stage include:

  • Coming up with the right word or name.
  • Remembering names when introduced to new people.
  • Having trouble completing tasks in social or work settings.
  • Trouble managing money
  • Not being able to recall recent reading material 
  • Losing or misplacing valuables 
  • Encountering an increased difficulty with planning or organizing

Middle/Moderate stage of Alzheimer’s 

Typically the longest stage and can last for many years; the middle stage shows more noticeable symptoms. Someone in this stage often has trouble expressing thoughts and performing everyday tasks without assistance due to damage to the brain’s nerve cells. This can lead to them confusing their words, getting frustrated or upset, and acting out. 

As Alzheimer’s progresses through the middle stage, the person will most likely require more frequent care.

Some challenges in the middle stage include:

  • Anxiety, agitation, and restlessness 
  • Compulsive or repetitive behavior 
  • Delusions/Hallucinations
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Needing help with activities like dressing and bathing
  • Lose track of surroundings and time
  • Getting lost or wandering more frequent
  • Trouble with urine and bowel functions

Late/Severe stage

In late stage Alzheimer’s, symptoms become severe. Those in the final stage lose the ability to respond to the environment around them, hold a conversation, and, ultimately, control their movement. 

As a person’s memory and cognitive skills deteriorate, significant personality changes usually occur, and they eventually need extensive, around-the-clock care.

Some challenges in the late stage include:

  • ​Lose awareness of their surroundings
  • No ability to recall current events or conversations
  • A dramatic decrease in physical skills (walking, sitting, and swallowing)
  • Difficulty communicating/loss of ability to speak coherently 
  • Increased risk of getting an infection, especially pneumonia

Treatment options available for Alzheimer’s Disease

There is no current cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, researchers and scientists have made remarkable strides in understanding more about the disease. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved medications that fall into two categories:

  • Drugs that may impact the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Medication that may temporarily alleviate some symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

Drugs that treat symptoms

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, cognitive symptoms worsen due to brain cells dying and lost connections among cells. It’s important to note that these drugs do not stop the damage to brain cells; instead, they can help lessen or better manage symptoms. 

The following medications can help treat symptoms related to memory and thinking:

  • Aricept®
  • Exelon®
  • Razadyne®
  • Memantine (Namenda®)
  • Donepezil and memantine (Namzaric®)

Alzheimer’s affects more than just memory and thinking; insomnia, agitation, aggression, anxiety, hallucinations, and delusions are also significant symptoms of the disease.  

The FDA has approved one drug to address insomnia in people living with Alzheimer’s:

  • Suvorexant (Belsomra®)

Anti-anxiety medications, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics all have the risk of severe side effects for those with Alzheimer’s. Therefore they are usually prescribed for a short period of time and when symptoms become severe.  

Drugs that treat the progression of Alzheimer’s

Currently, only one FDA-approved medication is authorized to treat the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, ADUHELM™(Aducanumab).

By targeting the fundamental pathophysiology of the disease, this new drug can help reduce amyloid plaques, slowing down the cognitive and functional decline of people living with early Alzheimer’s. 

ADUHELM™ is administered to patients through 45 to 60-minute intravenous infusions (IV) once a month. The injection can be administered at hospitals or infusion therapy centers

Resources for the caregiver

Becoming a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s can be physically, emotionally, mentalyl, and financially taxing. The demands of day-to-day care, changes in family roles, coping with the progression, and decisions about placement in a care facility can cause caregiver burnout quickly.  

There are resources available to caregivers to empower and support them through this journey with their loved one. Here are some ways to find support and become well-informed about the disease:

  • Alzheimer’s Association – Local support groups, hotline, online tools, publications, and virtual library 
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs– Caregiver support, help to find home health, long-term, respite, hospice care for Veterans suffering from Alzheimer’s
  • Family Caregiver Alliance– Resources for online support groups, research, clinical trials, and tips for navigating through the disease
  • Caregiver Action Network’s Family Caregiver Toolbox– Tips and information on every aspect of caregiving and online support community with several forums. Noteworthy groups to look into: Alzheimer’s caregivers and caregivers coping with depression. 
  • Memory Cafe– Located in hospitals, libraries, senior centers, and other locations across the country, memory cafés support those with Alzheimer’s/dementia and their caregivers. Caregivers can find help battling social isolation and connect with others who are experiencing similar circumstances.

Good coping skills, a strong support system, respite care, and staying physically active are other ways caregivers can manage the stress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Final thoughts

Some of the most exceptional developments in medical science in recent years have shed light on the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease to offer millions of patients hope. A better understanding of the disease’s impact may lead to better treatments. Ongoing clinical trials are allowing scientists to develop and test several possible interventions to hopefully, one day, address the underlying disease process. 

As a result of the FDA’s approval of ADUHELM™, patients with Alzheimer’s disease now have a critical new treatment to help them potentially fight this challenging disease. At Specialty Infusion Centers, we provide the latest infusion and injection treatments, including ADUHELM™. Visit one of our conveniently located centers for all your infusion and injection needs.

If you take biologic medications like Remicade to treat a chronic inflammatory autoimmune condition, you’ve probably heard of biosimilars from your physician or other healthcare providers. Biosimilars can be complex to understand, leaving you with many questions.

We put together this comprehensive guide of common questions and answers to better understand the differences between Remicade and biosimilars. 

(We always advise you to speak to your doctor before switching medications.)

What is a biologic medication?

Utilizing biotechnology, biologic medications are made from components that stem from human, animal or microorganism sources including sugars, proteins, DNA, whole cells, or tissue or other various elements of living things such as bacteria, birds, insects, mammals, and plants. 

Since biologics come from diverse sources that can be hard to identify, they are more complex than conventional drugs. In addition, once these drugs are formed, they also tend to be more unpredictable in how they can take effect and are more sensitive to light and temperature. 

With advances in the field of medicine, some biologics (gene-based and cellular) are now being used as treatments for many illnesses and diseases that may have previously otherwise had no treatment options available.

How do biologics work?

Depending on the disease and medication, biologics can:

  • Help manage the immune system’s signals involved in the inflammatory process that can lead to joint tissue damage 
  • Target certain proteins that encourage inflammation, help cancer cells grow, or play a role in developing psoriasis. 
  • Stimulate the immune system helping it work more effectively to fight infection

What is Remicade?

Remicade (infliximab) is a biologic prescription used to treat chronic inflammatory autoimmune diseases by reducing the effects of substances in the body that can cause inflammation. These conditions include:

  •  rheumatoid arthritis
  •  psoriatic arthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis (chronic inflammation of the spine and the sacroiliac joints)
  • plaque psoriasis in adults (severe or disabling cases)
  • ulcerative colitis (patients at least six years old)
  • Crohn’s disease (patients at least six years old)

This medication is given through intravenous infusions (IV), and dosage depends on the patient’s medical condition, weight, and response to treatment.

What are biosimilars?

Biosimilars are medications made using the same amino acid materials and specific processes as their reference drug. The reference drug refers to the well-tested, FDA-approved biologic drug that’s been on the market for years. The biosimilar presents with no significant differences in its safety or efficacy from the biologic product and is only available with a prescription from a healthcare professional. 

The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCI Act) of 2009 was created as an “abbreviated licensure pathway” for biological products to : 

  • provide more treatment options
  • increase access to lifesaving medications
  • possibly lower health care costs through competition

Are biosimilars the same as generic drugs?

No, they are not. Unlike generic drugs, biosimilars are not identical copies of their reference drugs. However, each biosimilar drug is manufactured by a complex process that includes the exact steps that were made to make the biologic medication. 

While the same process is followed, small changes are common from batch to batch since biosimilars are made from living cells. These variations are expected and acceptable because every lot is still required to meet the same high standards of purity, safety and efficacy as per the guidelines of the FDA.

What are the biosimilars to Remicade?

There are currently 3 FDA-approved biosimilars to Remicade in the United States; Inflectra, Reneflexis, and Avsola

Inflectra was the first biosimilar to Remicade, manufactured by Pfizer and released in April 2016. Renflexis was approved in April 2017 and Avsola was approved in December 2019, though it is unavailable. 

All three biosimilars belong to the class of drugs called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha inhibitors and work similarly to block TNF-alpha proteins that cause inflammation and swelling. Like Remicade, they are also given through an IV injection. 

Inflectra, Renflexis, and Avsola are used to treat the same conditions as Remicade, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ankylosing spondylitis, ulcerative colitis, psoriatic arthritis, and plaque psoriasis. 

These biosimilars are commonly used when other treatment options haven’t worked and can cost less than Remicade. 

Final Thoughts

At this time, Inflectra, Renflexis, and Avsola aren’t considered “interchangeable” by the FDA, meaning a pharmacist can’t switch someone from a biologic to a biosimilar without a prescription from a physician/healthcare provider. If you are currently on Remicade, and it’s not working, you may want to speak with your doctor about biosimilar options. 

At Speciality Infusion Centers, we specialize in managing chronic conditions and work with you, your insurance carrier, and your healthcare doctor to provide a personalized treatment plan. Find the most convenient location for you to start on your Remicade, Inflectra, or Renflexis IV therapy today. 

thyroid eye disease

What is thyroid eye disease?

Thyroid eye disease — also known as TED, Graves’ eye disease, or Graves’ ophthalmopathy — is a progressive autoimmune condition that occurs when the eyelids, fatty tissues behind the eyes, and the muscles surrounding them become inflamed. Thyroid eye disease develops in people with an overactive thyroid which results in excess thyroid hormone production. There are two phases to TED: the active phase, marked by inflammation, usually lasts from six months to two years; and the stable phase, where inflammation and other symptoms have subsided.

Eye problems result from the swelling of the tissue around the eye and in the eye socket behind the eye. This swelling causes exophthalmos, an abnormal protrusion of the eye, commonly associated with Graves’ disease. This swelling may also cause eyelid retraction. This can lead to exposure and infection of the cornea. The cornea is the transparent, dome-shaped “window” that lies directly over the eye’s pupil and iris. As a result, the eyes become red and swollen. In severe cases, you may experience bulging of the eyes and double vision. If the eyes are pushed forward too much, you may not be able to shut your eyes completely when blinking or sleeping. In a worst-case scenario, the inflammation may put pressure on the optic nerves behind the eyes — which could lead to blindness in the long term.

Thyroid eye disease usually occurs in people who have thyroid disease. Additional risk factors include:

Family history

Smoking (risk is reduced if you stop smoking)

Being middle-aged or older

Undergoing radioactive iodine therapy to treat hyperthyroidism

Treatment Options for Thyroid Eye Disease

Artificial tears may be used to treat mild symptoms, such as dry eye. If you have double vision, your eye doctor may recommend special lenses to help your vision. If you have swelling around the eyes, you may get a steroid medicine. It can help reduce the swelling. Or the doctor may talk to you about radiation or surgery for more serious eye problems. Radiation or surgery may help to treat problems in the muscles and tissues around your eyeball.

TEPEZZA (teprotumumab) is the only medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat thyroid eye disease. It reduces eye swelling, bulging, can correct double vision and improve vision in general. You’ll also experience less pain and redness from treatment. During clinical trials, patients noticed improvements within six weeks. TEPEZZA reduces the risk that a patient will have to undergo orbital decompression surgery, which is usually only considered once other treatments have failed.

TEPEZZA Side Effects

TEPEZZA has a risk of side effects in approximately 4% of patients. They may occur during treatment, or up to an hour and a half after the infusion has been completed. The most common ones include:

Muscle spasms

Muscle cramps

Nausea

Diarrhea

Fatigue

Hearing impairment

Headaches

Dry skin

Changes in taste

Hair loss

High blood sugar

If Your Doctor Has Recommended Infusion Therapy, Let Specialty Infusion Centers Help You

If you would like to refer a patient to us or want to inquire about the treatments we offer, you can contact us by calling us at (212) 2INFUSE or filling out this form.