- September 10, 2016
- Posted by: emobile
- Category: Researcher's Corner
Emobileclinic Researchers Corner
Asthma is a life threatening condition with no known specific drug for its permanent cure. According to findings from two new trial studies carried out by researchers from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver and sponsored by AstraZeneca, an injectable drug has been developed with potency to minimize flare-ups in patients with severe asthma hitherto not controlled by steroid inhalers alone. This finding was published in the Lancet Journal ahead of its findings presentation at the European Respiratory Society meeting in London.
Benralizumab is a biologic drug whose function is to wipe out white blood cells known as eosinophils which are present in large numbers in such patients and have been linked to severe asthma. The drug is awaiting approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration which may add to the two previous similar drugs namely Mepolizumab (Nucala) and Reslizumab (Cinqair) in combating severe asthma according to the researchers.
According to the author of the study, Dr J. Mark FitzGerald, the team can “offer patients who frequently require courses of oral corticosteroids and have a certain level of eosinophils [an allergy-related cell easily measured in the blood] a very effective treatment,” and that “with the right patient with the right characteristics, we can significantly modify the level of asthma severity,”
The team remarks the drug is cost effective because “the treatments that we have now are done every two weeks or once a month, but benralizumab can be given every two months, which may lower the cost”. The current drugs have been approved for patients aged 12 and above while they are awaiting approval for those under the age of 6.
About 1,300 patients aged 12 to 75 participated in the first trail, they were randomly assigned to one of three groups: benralizumab given every four weeks; benralizumab given every eight weeks; or a placebo. In addition, the patients continued to use high-dose inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting beta agonists inhalers to control their asthma.
Over 12 months, the researchers discovered that patients taking benralizumab recorded a 28 percent to 36 percent decrease in flare-ups, compared with a placebo. Patients on benralizumab also revealed improved lung function. The most common side effects were cold-like symptoms in 20 percent of those receiving benralizumab, against 21 percent of those on a placebo, and worsening asthma, 12 percent against 15 percent, respectively. Furthermore, the trial had four cases of serious side effects, namely; one case of hives and two cases of herpes while a patient who was taking a placebo developed chest pains. About seven patients on benralizumab and three patients on placebo withdrew from the trial as a result of these side effects. Howver, about 10 percent of patients with asthma have severe disease, which flares in spite of current maximal therapies,” according to the researchers.
This new drug, benralizumab when compared with Nucala and Cinqair, seems to function in a unique way by decreasing the number of eosinophils. According to Horovitz, “immune modulation has been on the forefront in treating many diseases, including cancer, but this drug represents a step forward in treating asthma.
The participants in the second trial were more than 1,200 patients also assigned to similar groups as in the first trial. The team discovered that benralizumab reduce asthma flare-ups by 45 percent to 51 percent compared with a placebo. The most common side effects were worsening asthma in 13 percent of those receiving benralizumab, compared to 12 percent of those receiving a placebo, and cold-like symptoms experienced by 12 percent of patients in both groups.
Among patients taking benralizumab, four suffered serious side effects. One case of allergic granulomatous (inflammation of blood vessels), one had a panic attack and one had paresthesia (pins and needles). Among those receiving the placebo, one had a skin reaction at the site of the injection. In all, 18 patients on benralizumab and three on placebo withdrew from the study as a result of the side effects according to the researchers.
In fact, Dr Alan Mensch, the chief Pulmonary Medicine at Northwell Health’s Plainview Hospital in New York says: “these biologicals treat patients that were previously untreatable, and these treatments are getting better and better”.
Health Day News Release