Experimental Asthma Drug Halves Attacks

Four percent of asthma sufferers continue to have serious attacks even while on traditional medication, but a new experimental asthma drug from GlaxoSmithKline Plc seems to be able to help.

The Telegraph reports the medicine is called mepolizumab and treats a rare form of the condition in which white blood cells called eosinophils cause lung airways to become inflamed. The new asthma drug is injected and reduces the number of eosinophils cells moving into the lungs.

In a study recently published, Business Week reported that for the 621 participants with severe asthma, after a year of treatment, the rate of attacks requiring oral corticosteroids, trips to the ER, or hospital stays was about half for those taking one of three monthly doses of mepolizumab when compared to those taking the placebo. The study came from the UK’s University Hospitals of Leicester NHS.

While the new asthma drug did seem effective in reducing the number of serious attacks, it did not produce improvements or lung function.

“It seems to be a safe and effective treatment option for patients with eosinophilic asthma that is associated with frequent flare-ups, and may reduce the need for conventional treatment with oral corticosteroids that can have serious side effects including osteoporosis, high blood pressure and impaired growth in children,” Professor Ian Pavord told The Telegraph.

Though the drug’s target audience includes only four percent of those with asthma, its development and success will be a major boost for those patients who do need it as well as for GlaxoSmithKline as it solidifies its position as a major player in the lung drugs market.

The findings of the study were initially published in The Lancet medical journal. GlaxoSmithKline will continue to study the new asthma drug and will begin late-stage trials by the end of the of the year.