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Investigational drug for asthma flareups

An investigational drug appears to cut the risk of severe asthma attacks in half for patients who have difficulty controlling the disorder with standard medications. That’s according to a pair of multicenter clinical trials, headed by asthma researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

BY DEFINITION, PATIENTS WITH HARD-TO-CONTROL ASTHMA ARE AT GREATER RISK FOR ASTHMA ATTACKS, THE TYPES OF PROBLEMS THAT REQUIRE THEM TO CONTACT THEIR PHYSICIAN, OR EVEN TO GO TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM. BUT STUDYING ALMOST 1000 PEOPLE WITH HARD-TO-CONTROL ASTHMA AT MORE THAN 200 CENTERS ON 6 CONTINENTS, A RESEARCH TEAM, LED BY ASTHMA SPECIALISTS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS, HAS FOUND THAT IN SOME PATIENTS AN INVESTIGATIONAL DRUG CAN CUT THE RISK FOR SEVERE ASTHMA ATTACKS IN HALF. JIM DRYDEN REPORTS…

THE INVESTIGATIONAL DRUG IS CALLED RESLIZUMAB, AND IT INTERFERES WITH THE ACTIVITY OF AN INFLAMMATORY SUBSTANCE IN THE BODY CALLED INTERLEUKIN-5. A PAST STUDY OF A SIMILAR DRUG HAD FOUND THAT IT DIDN’T DO MUCH TO HELP PREVENT ATTACKS IN PATIENTS WITH ASTHMA, BUT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY ASTHMA SPECIALIST MARIO CASTRO SAYS THAT STUDY “TOOK ALL COMERS.” IN THIS STUDY, THE DRUG WAS TESTED ONLY IN PATIENTS WHO HAD HIGH COUNTS OF A TYPE OF INFLAMMATORY WHITE BLOOD CELL CALLED AN EOSINOPHIL. HE SAYS IN THE EARLIER STUDY, THOSE PATIENTS WEREN’T SINGLED OUT.

(act) :09 o/c actually responded

But when we looked back, and looked at the subset analysis,

what we found was that all of those that had high eosinophil

counts were the ones that actually responded.

AND STUDYING ALMOST 1000 PATIENTS WITH INADEQUATELY CONTROLLED ASTHMA, CASTRO’S INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH TEAM FOUND THAT THOSE WHO GOT THE INVESTIGATIONAL DRUG TENDED TO HAVE FEWER ASTHMA ATTACKS.

(act) :11 o/c on steroids

The big thing here is that this reduces asthma attacks,

and these are severe asthma attacks that require the patient

to contact their physician and, usually, get put on steroids.

AND CASTRO SAYS HIS PATIENTS HATE TO GO ON STEROIDS BECAUSE OF THE UNWANTED SIDE EFFECTS. HE SAYS NOT ALL PATIENTS WILL BENEFIT FROM THIS DRUG BECAUSE NOT ALL PATIENTS HAVE HIGH COUNTS OF EOSINOPHILS IN THE BLOOD.

(act) :14 o/c this therapy

About 30 to 40 percent of patients with uncontrolled

asthma have a persistent increase in their eosinophils

in the blood. That would be the right subset of patients

to use for this therapy.

BUT IN THE 30 TO 40 PERCENT OF PATIENTS WHO DO HAVE HIGH COUNTS OF EOSINOPHILS, CASTRO SAYS THE DRUG MAY HELP. AND IDENTIFYING THOSE PATIENTS IS PRETTY EASY. ALL THAT’S REQUIRED IS A SIMPLE BLOOD TEST.

(act) :23 o/c the clinic

Most of us do this kind of blood work. It’s a simple blood

count. It’s not any special test. When the blood count

measures your white blood cells, automatically the

machine differentiates into the different types of cells

that are in your blood. So this is really a routine

result that all physicians get, and that’s the nice

thing about this is that it can really be translated

to the clinic.

IN ADDITION TO FEWER ASTHMA ATTACKS, THE STUDIES FOUND THAT LUNG FUNCTION IMPROVED WITH MONTHLY INFUSIONS OF RESLIZUMAB.

(act) :22 o/c one year

So the idea, then, is that if you can block that cell

from going there and doing all its damage, then you

could improve airflow through that obstructed windpipe.

And that’s what we saw. There was a substantial increase

in lung function, and that occurred within just a few

months of being on this therapy and was sustained out

to one year.

THE NEW STUDY IS PUBLISHED IN THE JOURNAL LANCET RESPIRATORY MEDICINE. I’M JIM DRYDEN…

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