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Asthma drug shows promise


The new drug dupilumab shows promise for those who suffer from uncontrollable asthma.

Woman with asthma inhaller

Good news for the nearly 25 million Americans with asthma.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals is unveiling a new experimental antibody drug that has had positive outcomes in patients who can’t control the disease. About 20 percent of asthma patients are unsuccessful using traditional medicines to treat the disease.

Results of a study were presented today at the annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society in Philadelphia and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the study, 104 adults with moderate to severe asthma ceased taking their long-acting asthma drugs for the duration of the experiment. The 52 who took the new drug, dupilumab, reported three asthma attacks; 52 participants who received the placebo reported 23 asthma attacks. Researchers say the 87 percent decrease in the risk of an attack is a positive sign.

So is the fact that those on the drug needed their short-acting inhalers less.

“As a person who has been doing research in asthma and new approaches to therapy for asthma for 20 years, these are some of the most exciting results that I’ve seen,” said Sally Wenzel, lead author and director of the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute.

There are a few drawbacks, says Stanley Szefler, head of pediatric pharmacology at National Jewish Health in Denver. The drug requires weekly injections, and it will be costly. Side effects include runny nose, nausea and headache.

Overall, however, many professionals say that the results are promising.

“We don’t want to send the message that we jump right away to something that is expensive and injectable,” said Sumita Katri, director of the Asthma Center at the Cleveland Clinic. “It gives us hope that we’re on the right track.”

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