The Consumer’s Guide to Biologics for Atopic Dermatitis

Everything you need to know about this new treatment for eczema, including whether it may work for you.

M ore than 16.5 million adults in the United States have atopic dermatitis, a common form of eczema that often causes flare-ups of dry, itchy, discolored patches of skin. It particularly affects the insides of the elbows and knees, as well as the hands, feet, and face, according to the National Eczema Association. Here's what you should know about this new medication.

How Current Biologics Work in the Body to Fight Atopic Dermatitis

In medical speak, biologics are very targeted medications, meaning they work by homing in on specific molecules in the body responsible for triggering inflammation, says Alok Vij, MD, director of the dermatology residency program at Cleveland Clinic and an associate professor of dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

“As a dermatologist, it is exciting to see new medicines come to market for atopic dermatitis,” says Dr. Vij. “These medications empower us to work with people who have the condition to find the best solution to reduce the burden of their symptoms.”

Biologics have revolutionized the treatment of several dermatologic disorders
— Shawn Kwatra, MD (@drshawnkwatra)

How Other Atopic Dermatitis Medications Work

“Biologics have revolutionized the treatment of several dermatologic disorders,” says Shawn Kwatra, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Itch Center in Baltimore, because they work by targeting particular molecules in the body, rather than lowering inflammation in a broad manner, as other medications do. Here’s a brief guide to some of the other common atopic dermatitis treatment options on the market.

  • Topical hydrocortisone, a low-strength steroid that’s sold over the counter, is available as an ointment, cream, lotion, or gel that’s applied directly to the skin.
  • Topical corticosteroids, which are also applied to the skin, can help quell inflammation and itching. They’re available by prescription in different strengths, with the potency levels ranging from very potent (Class 1) to least potent (Class 7).
  • Immunosuppressants — as their name suggests — suppress the immune system more broadly, tamping down the inflammation that triggers symptoms like itching and irritation.
  • Phototherapy, or light therapy, uses different wavelengths of ultraviolet light to treat atopic dermatitis.

5 Essential Facts About Biologics for Atopic Dermatitis

Here’s a quick primer on what you need to know about this class of medication.

5 FAQs About Biologics for Atopic Dermatitis, Answered

Wondering whether a biologic is right for you? Here are some frequently asked questions about the medication.

Who Is a Candidate for a Biologic?

A biologic can be a good choice for some people who have atopic dermatitis (especially those whose condition is moderate to severe), but others may want to try a different medication. Here are a few things to consider.

Next Steps: Making Atopic Dermatitis Treatment Decisions


You’ve learned a lot about biologics for atopic dermatitis, but how do you decide whether they’re right for you?



Before your next doctor’s appointment, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Am I in remission (meaning your eczema flares are currently under control)?
  2. Have I experienced a resurgence of symptoms since starting my current treatment?
  3. Am I satisfied with my current atopic dermatitis treatment?
  4. Is my atopic dermatitis interfering with my quality of life? (For example, is your condition causing you to feel anxious or depressed?)

Doctor Discussion

Keep these questions on hand to use at your next doctor’s appointment.

  1. What else can I do to ease my symptoms?
  2. Am I a good candidate for a biologic, or is there another medication I should consider?
  3. What results can I expect from this medication?
  4. How soon will I experience some progress on this medication?
  5. How long will I need to use this medication?
  6. How long can I expect to stay in remission?