Glossary of Terms

You may not be familiar with some words used for biologic medications. We’re here to help you understand!

Antibodies: a blood protein that is produced by your immune system or engineered synthetically. They attach to antigens such as bacteria and viruses and attempt to remove them from your body.

Antigen: a foreign substance such as bacteria or a virus that enters the body and causes an immune response.

Anti-IgE: medications that bind to immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. IgE can cause allergies and allergic reactions so medications that bind to this can help prevent allergens from triggering allergic reactions.

Biologics (also called biologicals): a class of medications given as an injection or intravenously. The medications target specific cells, proteins or pathways that cause allergic inflammation. They are prescribed to treat moderate to severe asthma and atopic dermatitis, among other conditions.

B-cells (also called B-lymphocytes): a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies to fight off bacteria and viruses. B-cells attach to the surface of a foreign cell and tag it so that other immune cells can destroy it.

Biomarkers: certain medical signs such as blood tests (not symptoms) used to measure the presence or progression of a disease. They are also used to see how well a specific treatment might work or how the body responds to a treatment.

Biosimilars: a biologic product that is highly similar to an FDA-approved biologic but with minor differences. Biosimilars are very close in structure and function as biologics and have the same standards in terms of safety and effectiveness.

Cytokines: proteins that signal the body’s cells to begin an immune response. Some activate the immune system while others slow it down. 

Eosinophils: a type of white blood cell involved with allergic reactions, infections and asthma. Eosinophils promote allergic inflammation. Increased eosinophils can be seen in a variety of conditions including allergies and asthma.

Immunoglobulin E (IgE): antibodies produced by the body’s immune system. They can set off allergy symptoms. 

Inflammation: the body’s immune system response to an allergen or irritant.

Interleukins: a group of cytokines released by white blood cells that regulate immune responses – some activate the immune system while others slow it down.

Mast cells: a type of white blood cell that is part of the body’s immune system. It’s found in tissue, including under the skin and in the lungs and digestive system. They release histamine and cytokines during allergic reactions and immune responses, leading to allergy or flu-like symptoms.

Monoclonal Antibodies: man-made proteins created in a laboratory that act like human antibodies in the immune system. They can target a virus or infection, or even a specific part of the immune system.

Neutrophils: white blood cells that are part of the immune system and help the body fight infection. 

Phenotypes: observable, unique traits of a disease that when identified can help doctors individualize treatment. For example, asthma has multiple phenotypes: allergic, nonallergic, exercise-induced, severe and occupational, among others.

Prior Authorization: a policy by medical insurers by which certain medications and treatments may require approval from your health insurance provider before you receive them.

Shared Decision-Making: a collaborative process by which healthcare providers and patients come together to arrive at a shared, evidence-based treatment plan. The plan balances risks and results with a patient’s preferences. Studies show it improves patient health outcomes.

Step Therapy (also called “fail first”): a process used by health insurance providers to control costs. It occurs when health insurers require patients to fail the first step of treatment, typically a generic or low-cost medication, before moving on to a second step – even when the doctor and patient have agreed step two is the best option. This is risky to patients and can lead to increased healthcare costs in the long term.

T-cells (also called T-lymphocytes): a type of white blood cell that seeks out specific foreign substances (antigens) in the body. There are two types of T-cells: Helper T-cells coordinate the attack on the foreign substance and Killer T-cells destroy it.

Type 2 Inflammation: a type of systemic immune response that disrupts the immune system and leads to increased symptoms. Type 2 inflammation can impact people with allergic asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis.