What are Biologic Medicines?

What are Biologic Medicines?

03.14.13 | By Jennifer Wall

During many conversations I have had with friends, family members and new acquaintances, I've found that many people don't quite understand the difference between a biologic and a traditional chemical medicine (oftentimes found in a pill form). But who can blame them? Many people don't fully understand the difference even when they are personally affected by disease. We want medicine to make us better regardless of the form it takes.

I distinguish the two by telling folks to imagine putting together a puzzle made up of a million different pieces (biologics) compared to a smaller puzzle comprised of hundreds of pieces (chemical-derived medicines). Both are complicated to put together but one is more complex (and often more personalized) than the other.

Biologics are made up of living matter (such as human cells, bacteria and yeast) and can be comprised of up to a million atoms, compared to chemical medicine that can have less than 100 or 50 atoms.

To put this into perspective, PhRMA recently sat down with Dr. Joe Miletich, senior vice president, research and development, Amgen, to talk about the complexities involved with developing biologics and how such treatments can help patients facing complex diseases such as those outlined in our recent medicines in development report.

"For physicians and patients, the main advantages of a biologic are that something can be achieved that wasn't possible before," Joe said during the interview. He added that, "We have the increasing potential for being able to understand at a more personal level for each patient what might be the best medicine for them."

Check out his interview here.

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