Asthma patients may benefit from antibody injections

March 5th, 2009 - 3:19 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 5 (ANI): An Indian-origin scientist at McMaster University says that jabs of an antibody, mepolizumab, may benefit patients with a very severe asthma.

Dr. Param Nair and colleagues at The Firestone Institute for Respiratory Disease, St. Joseph’’s Healthcare found that patients, who required a lot of medication like prednisone to control their disease, could benefit from the injections.

For the study, the researchers investigated asthmatics with a persisting type of airway inflammation with inflammatory cells called eosinophils.

“Mepolizumab works by blocking the production of eosinophils. By preventing their production, we were able to improve asthma, reduce the need for prednisone and really show that eosinophils are important in causing asthma symptoms in these patients,” said the study’’s senior author Dr. Paul O”Byrne.

For the study, researchers recruited 20 mature asthmatic patients (56 58 years of age) who had been taking about 10 milligrams of prednisone for approximately nine years, along with other available asthma medication.

The group is difficult to manage for doctors because of the many drugs they need to control their disease and the side effects of prednisone, which include weight gain, bone loss, and an increased risk of diabetes.

During the six month randomised, double blind, parallel-group trial, nine patients received mepolizumab and 11 were given a placebo.

O”Byrne said that patients receiving mepolizumab “markedly reduced” their use of prednisone without their asthma getting any worse, while patients in the placebo group had their asthma flare up as prednisone was reduced.

In the initial stages of the study, eosinophils in the sputum, or blood, were elevated in all patients.

“But, mepolizumab reduced the number of eosinophils to the normal range and kept them at that level for the entire study,” said O”Byrne.

He warned that mepolizumab is not appropriate for all patients with severe asthma.

“Many patients with severe asthma would not get benefit from this treatment approach,” he said, adding this antibody is only helpful for those with eosinophilic asthma.

Mepolizumab is an investigational drug and currently not approved for use in Canada.

The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). (ANI)

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