The Hidden Costs of “Wonder” Drugs for Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases are complex conditions where your immune cells attack healthy cells, leading to a range of symptoms, including skin rashes, swollen joints, difficulty breathing, and even brain damage. There are now various drugs available to treat these debilitating disorders. Among these are “biologic” drugs, which can significantly reduce the impact of the rogue immune cells. However, there are certain catches, such as high costs and potentially severe side effects.

The high costs of biologic drugs

The most common drugs used to treat multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, can lead to exorbitant costs for patients. For one year of therapy, prices can range from $32,000 to $45,000, with patients often experiencing various side effects such as fatigue, depression, and flu-like symptoms. While these drugs can reduce the risk of an acute relapse by about a third, research has not shown that they decrease the likelihood of significant mobility impairment.

Similarly, biologic drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease have hefty annual price tags ranging from $25,000 to $40,000. These drugs also come with a wide range of potential side effects, from mild annoyances to life-threatening infections.

Newer biologic drugs for multiple sclerosis have also emerged, but these can cost even more, with prices ranging from $42,000 to $60,000 per year. While these drugs are more effective at preventing acute attacks and relapses, they still have a long list of side effects to contend with.

The importance of addressing root causes

A major downside with these potent drugs is that they often interfere with the normal functioning of healthy immune cells. This can lead to significant health changes and higher susceptibility to infections. Physicians often push patients toward these drugs without addressing the root cause of why the autoimmune issues developed in the first place.

For most autoimmune diseases, there are around 150 distinct genes that can slightly increase your risk of a specific autoimmune condition. However, the vast majority of people with these genes do not develop any autoimmune conditions. Several factors interact and contribute to the development of autoimmune disorders, including diet, exposure to toxins, use of antibiotics, gut bacteria, physical activity levels, stress hormone levels, and the quality of one’s family and social support system.

The power of a holistic approach

By focusing on environmental factors that exacerbate or improve autoimmune diseases, patients can experience remarkable recoveries. Doctors should teach patients about unrecognized food sensitivities, the importance of a high-quality diet, managing stress, and potential exposure to toxins like lead and mercury. By addressing these issues, patients can often experience a reduction in pain, fatigue, and other symptoms.

Many patients are surprised at the numerous relatively inexpensive options available to manage and alleviate their autoimmune conditions, such as making strategic choices about diet and exercise. As autoimmune diseases continue to rise in prevalence, the primary goal should be to shift the focus from solely relying on expensive drugs with potentially dangerous side effects to incorporating diet and lifestyle choices that tackle the root causes of the disorders.