Fight Hives With Asthma Drug, Study Says

A new study has revealed an asthma drug can also be an effective deterrent against chronic itchy hives, The New York Times reported on Sunday, February 24.

The drug is called omalizumab, more commonly referred to as Xolair, and just one monthly injection can significantly reduce hives and their itchiness, according to the study, which was first published online by The New England Journal of Medicine.

In a statement to The New York Times on Sunday, Dr. Marcus Maurer, the study’s lead author and professor of dermatology and allergy at Berlin’s Charité-Universitätsmedizin, referred to the drug as “the magic bullet that patients have been waiting for for the last 40 years.”

While the drug is still waiting for approval, the study was called “well-designed” and “encouraging” by independent Dr. Jonathan Bernstein, professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati.

Should omalizumab be approved for the purpose set forth in the study, it will directly treat chronic idiopathic urticaria, the cause of itchy hives by disabling Immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody that boosts allergic response, the study noted.

The study included 323 sufferers of chronic idiopathic urticaria, also known as chronic spontaneous urticaria. The subjects had not responded well to antihistamines, which are usually used for treatment.

As dosages increased, subjects reported more significant decreases in itching. For example, the group receiving 300 milligrams enjoyed a 71 percent reduction, while the group receiving 150 milligrams noticed a decline of around 57 percent.

Placebo groups reported just a 37 percent reduction.

The finding is another bit of good news for asthma drugs. In August 2012, an experimental drug called mepolizumab from GlaxoSmithKline Plc was shown to cut asthma attacks in two.

In 2008, government figures revealed asthma drugs were a $2.5 billion industry.

Have you experienced itchy hives? What drugs have been the most effective for you?

[Image via ShutterStock]