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16-08-2012 | General practice | Article

Severe asthma breakthrough


Free abstract

MedWire News: Researchers have reported a potential breakthrough in the treatment of patients with severe asthma who are prone to recurrent exacerbations.

The team found that in asthma patients with eosinophilic airway inflammation, characterised by frequent exacerbations, the monoclonal antibody mepolizumab almost halved the risk of severe exacerbations requiring oral corticosteroids or emergency or hospital treatment.

"Mepolizumab is potentially an important advance because it seems to be a safe and effective treatment option for patients with eosinophilic asthma that is associated with frequent flare-ups, and may reduce the need for conventional treatment with oral corticosteroids that can have serious side effects including osteoporosis, high blood pressure and impaired growth in children," said lead author Professor Ian Pavord (University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust) in a press statement.

The study, published today in The Lancet, included 621 patients with severe asthma and signs of eosinophilic inflammation. Those randomly assigned to one of three monthly doses of intravenous mepolizumab had around half the rate of clinically significant exacerbations as those assigned to a matched placebo, at 1.2-1.5 versus 2.4 per patient per year.

In a related commentary, Dr Simone Hashimoto and Dr Elisabeth Bel (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands) write: "These effects are very promising and give hope to many patients for whom no effective drugs are available without significant adverse effects."

They add: "The next step will be to assess the steroid-sparing effects of mepolizumab in a large population of patients who are dependent on oral corticosteroids... If these are confirmed, the most severely affected patients with asthma would benefit greatly."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price