Biotechnology-derived injectable medications raise complex issues with respect to access and administration for both manufacturers and payers. In addition, biotech injectables rarely fit within traditional prescription drug benefit design structures, thereby creating inequities in reimbursement and access that can undermine a health benefit plan’s goals.

Benefit-design changes focusing on short-term solutions can exacerbate such situations. Employers, insurers, and managed care organizations need to consider innovative benefit-plan designs to effectively address issues that are associated with biotech medications.

Actuarial models, such as the Reimbursement model described in this article, can help to provide the options analyses and decision-making support that are required.

Over the past decade, medical research has yielded medications and treatments that, only a few years ago, would have been considered miracles of technology. Second- and third-generation antibiotics and select chemotherapeutic and neurologic agents represent steady, progressive advances against common human maladies. Until recently, HIV-positive individuals or those with cancer or certain immune-system disorders could anticipate a predictable decline of health and then death; now, such patients can be treated with pharmaceutical therapies that allow them to continue to pursue productive and satisfying lives.

Biotechnology-derived medications are the leading edge of medical treatment today. Biopharmaceuticals act at a specific site or cell protein that is pertinent to the prevention, treatment, or cure of disease or injury. Biotech injectable medications primarily are used to treat low-prevalence, high-cost diseases for which previous treatments were more invasive, risky, and/or costly, or unavailable.

Steroid injections, also called corticosteroid injections, are anti-inflammatory medicines used to treat a range of conditions.

They can be used to treat problems such as joint pain, arthritis, sciaticaand inflammatory bowel disease.

Steroid injections are only given by healthcare professionals. Common examples include hydrocortisone, triamcinolone and methylprednisolone.

How steroid injections are given

Steroid injections are usually given by a specialist doctor in hospital.

They can be given in several different ways, including:

  • into a joint (an intra-articular injection)
  • into a muscle (an intramuscular injection)
  • into the spine (an epidural injection)
  • into the blood (an intravenous injection)

The injections normally take a few days to start working, although some work in a few hours. The effect usually wears off after a few months.

If you’re having an injection to relieve pain, it may also contain local anaesthetic. This provides immediate pain relief that lasts a few hours.

You should be able to go home soon after the injection. You may need to rest the treated body part for a few days.

Side effects of steroid injections

Possible side effects of steroid injections depend on where the injection is given.

Side effects of injections into the joints, muscles or spine can include:

  • pain and discomfort for a few days – paracetamol may help with this
  • temporary bruising or a collection of blood under the skin
  • flushing of the face for a few hours
  • an infection, causing redness, swelling and pain – get medical advice as soon as possible if you have these symptoms
  • a loss of fat where the injection was given – this can cause dimples in the skin and may be permanent
  • paler skin around the site of the injection – this may be permanent
  • if you have diabetes, your blood sugar level may go up for a few days
  • if you have high blood pressure, your blood pressure may go up for a few days

Epidural injections can also very occasionally give you a pounding headache that’s only relieved by lying down. This should get better on its own, but tell your specialist if you get it.

Side effects of injections given into the blood tend to be similar to side effects of steroid tablets, such as increased appetite, mood changes and difficulty sleeping.