Eczema jab could offer new hope to millions with asthma – stopping symptoms and repairing the lungs
American researchers found the drug, dupilumab, stops symptoms and improves patients' ability to breathe better than standard therapies.
Two separate studies found the drug, an injectable antibody, was able to improve lung function.
Experts from Washington University School of Medicine studied more than 2,000 patients that suffered from moderate to severe asthma.
The rate of asthma exacerbations – progressively worsening shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing – was cut in half when patients were treated with dupilumab.
And those taking the placebo suffered at least one asthma exacerbation a day.
Although the drug significantly reduced asthma symptoms for all patients, dupilumab worked particularly well in patients with high numbers of a specific type of white blood cell, called eosinophils, circulating in the bloodstream.
For those patients, asthma exacerbations were cut by two-thirds.
Lead author Mario Castro, a distinguished professor in pulmonology and critical care medicine, said: "This drug not only reduced severe symptoms of asthma, it improved the ability to breathe.
"That's important because these patients have a chronic disabling disease that worsens over time with loss of lung function.
"So far, we do not have a drug for asthma that changes the course of the disease.
"Current drugs for severe asthma help reduce trips to the emergency room, for example, but they don't improve lung function."
For the first study, 1,900 patients needing three types of inhalers to manage their symptoms were split into two groups, one to receive dupilumab and one to receive a placebo for a year.
NEED TO KNOW What is asthma, what are the symptoms in adults and children and is it an allergy?
Not only did the drug reduce symptoms, the patients receiving dupilumab showed improved lung function in a test of "forced expiratory volume" – a test that measures how much air a person's lung can exhale.
Patients receiving dupilumab, regardless of dose, improved their lung function by approximately 130-200 milliliters greater than those receiving the placebo.
Hospital visits were also down with only 3.5 per cent of dupilumab patients needing to go to A&E compared to 6.5 per cent of the placebo group.
The second study suggests patients could be weaned off strong steroids, currently used to treat asthma.
Long-term use of steroids can have debilitating effects including stunted growth, diabetes, cataracts and osteoporosis.
Some 200 patients who had used inhalers and oral steroids to control their asthma were recruited for the second study.
Half were put on dupilumab and the other half a placebo.
After a year of treament 80 per cent of those on the dupilumab trial were able cut their steroid doses in half, compared to a small amount on the placebo trial.
"I have patients who have had to stop working and go on disability because their asthma symptoms are so severe they can no longer function in the workplace," Prof. Castro said.
"I'm excited about the potential of dupilumab because I have so many patients who have maxed out on available therapies and they still can't breathe. It can become a very disabling disease."
Source: Read Full Article