Oh, if I only knew of a more interesting subject for MY next cocktail party. When kids’ drama, and the latest neighborhood gossip just won’t do, try your luck at the newest asthma mediation!
A special thanks to Reuters for their excellent reporting…my comments will be in RED.
By Ransdell Pierson
(Reuters) – A new type of asthma drug meant to attack the underlying causes of the respiratory disease slashed episodes by 87% in a mid-stage trial, making it a potential game changer for patients with moderate to severe disease, researchers said on Tuesday.
Slashing episodes by 50% is pretty dramatic, much less results of 87%. Too good to be true always lurks in the background with medical studies. Am I cynical? Unfortunately, I’ve been burned by too many drugs, gadgets, and the next best nutritional supplement to accept this news without a grain of salt.
“Overall, these are the most exciting data we’ve seen in asthma in 20 years,” said Dr. Sally Wenzel, lead investigator for the 104-patient study of dupilumab, an injectable treatment being developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc and French drugmaker Sanofi.
The drug also met all its secondary goals, such as improving symptoms and lung function and reducing the need for standard drugs called beta agonists.
Although far larger trials will be needed to confirm findings from the “proof of concept” study, researchers expressed optimism. They noted that dupilumab has also shown the ability to tame atopic dermatitis or severe eczema.
The medicine, if approved, could hold promise for patients with moderate to severe persistent asthma that is not well controlled by standard drugs.
“We have been treating asthma with sort of Band-Aid therapies that didn’t get at the underlying causes,” Dr. Wenzel said in an interview, adding that dupilumab could be an important step in going to the root of the problem.
The Holy Grail in more ways than one!
The drug works by simultaneously blocking proteins that have been linked to inflammation, interleukin-4 (IL-4) and interleukin-13 (IL-13).
Dr. Wenzel, director of the Asthma Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, said other drugmakers have tested medicines that block one or both of the proteins, but without success.
The trial recruited patients with high levels of eosinophils. Such patients were deemed likely to benefit from treatment.
This new form of medication, called monoclonal antibodies, targets single molecules to avoid the side effects of steroids. Our prototype for asthma is Omalizumab or Xolair which just celebrated its 10th year out in the market. Other than Xolair, I’m limited to using steroids for severe asthma.
All patients initially stayed on their standard asthma treatments, meaning medium-to-high doses of inhaled glucocorticoids, as well as long-acting beta agonists. But patients gradually tapered off on those drugs and were no longer taking either of them after nine weeks.
Throughout the Phase IIa trial, half the patients also received weekly injections of dupilumab, while half received placebo injections.
After the ninth week, about 25% of those on placebos had experienced exacerbations, i.e., the need to take a beta agonist, a decrease in lung function, the need for an oral or inhaled corticosteroid, or admission to the hospital or emergency room for worsening asthma.
“By end of the trial, after 12 weeks, 44% of those in the placebo group had exacerbations, compared with 5% of those on dupilumab,” Dr. Wenzel said.
That represented an overall 87% reduction in exacerbations, which Dr. Wenzel said was highly statistically significant.
She said dupilumab was well tolerated, with side effects similar to placebo. But she cautioned that longer trials are needed to fully assess the drug.
Regeneron and Sanofi said standard drugs are unable to control asthma well in 10% to 20% of patients. They estimate that inflammation caused by Th2 cells – the type of inflammation among patients they tested – plays a role in half of those moderate to severe cases and affects as many as 2.5 million people in the United States and up to 30 million worldwide.
Dupilumab has also shown strong hints of safety and effectiveness in two early-stage trials that involved 67 patients with atopic dermatitis. Larger studies are slated to begin later this year.
Atopic dermatitis is inherited and involves patches of highly itchy skin on any part of the body. Patients, many of whom also have asthma and hay fever, have compared the sensation to having unending poison ivy.
“This asthma data and the data we already have in atopic dermatitis really raises the possibility the scientific community has finally hit upon the key pathway across all these allergic diseases,” George Yancopoulos, Regeneron’s research chief, said in an interview.
And there you have it….next time don’t be stuck with boring conversation about the weather, talk about Dupilumab!