Patients with a rare form of asthma who took an experimental GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) drug experienced almost half the rate of attacks compared with those who took a placebo, according to a company-funded study.
Among 621 participants with severe asthma, after a year of treatment, the rate of attacks requiring oral corticosteroids, emergency room visits or hospitalizations was about half for those taking one of three monthly doses of the drug, called mepolizumab, compared with those on placebo, according to a study at the U.K.’s University Hospitals of Leicester NHS. The research was published today in the Lancet medical journal.
The treatment targets the 4 percent of asthma patients who experience attacks even after taking high doses of existing medicines. Mepolizumab works by blocking the production of eosinophils, a type of blood cell that causes inflammation of lung airways.
“These effects are very promising and give hope to many patients for whom no effective drugs are available without significant adverse events,” Simone Hashimoto and Elisabeth Bel from the University of Amsterdam said in a comment accompanying the article.
While mepolizumab was effective in reducing exacerbations, it failed to produce improvements in symptoms or lung function, the study authors said. This observed dissociation between day- to-day symptoms and the risk of asthma attacks implies that different strategies are needed to manage the separate aspects of the disease, they said.
Three patients died during the study, though the deaths weren’t related to treatment, the researchers said.
Glaxo plans to continue studying the drug and will begin late-stage trials by the end of the year, the London-based drugmaker said in an e-mailed statement.
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