A new injection has the power to significantly decrease attacks in patients with severe, uncontrollable asthma, a new study has found.
In two trials, the benralizumab injection reduced the risk of shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness by up to a half.
Researchers said the findings support the use of benralizumab as an add-on therapy for treating severe asthma.
Asthma affects an estimated 315 million people worldwide, approximately 10% of whom have severe or uncontrolled asthma.
“Patients with severe, uncontrolled asthma have very few treatment options once they are already taking high-dose inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting beta agonists,” said lead author of the second trial, Professor Eugene Bleecker from the Wake Forest School of Medicine, USA.
The two new trials of more than 2,500 patients, published in The Lancet and presented at the European Respiratory Society meeting in London, looked at the effect of benralizumab on patients with this severe form of asthma.
They found the injection cut the rates of exacerbation - shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness - significantly.
In the first trial, a monthly injection resulted in a 28-36% reduction in exacerbation rates compared to the placebo injection.
In the second trial, it resulted in a 45-51% reduction in attacks.
Researchers said the drug works by targeting and killing the IL-5 receptor in the body. This receptor is responsible for helping eosinophil, a type of white blood cell which controls asthma, survive.
Many patients with severe, uncontrolled asthma have high levels of eosinophils in the blood and airways, which can cause frequent asthma attacks and impaired lung function.
Lead author of the first trial, Professor J. Mark FitzGerald from the University of British Columbia, Canada, said: “The results from both trials indicate that benralizumab treatment once every four or eight weeks decreased eosinophil counts, reduced asthma exacerbations, and improved lung function for patients with severe, uncontrolled asthma with eosinophilia.
“Additional therapeutic options to control severe asthma are urgently needed and our findings support the use of benralizumab as an add-on therapy for the treatment of severe asthma with persistent eosinophilia.”
Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, told The Huffington Post UK: “This new drug is one of a similar group being developed that we think offers genuine hope for many of the people in the UK who have a certain type of asthma that does not respond to current treatments.
“These people struggle to breathe every day, restricting their ability to carry out everyday activities such as going to work or school and severely effecting their quality of life.”
She added: “While new drugs like the one announced today are very exciting for people with a certain type of asthma, there are many other types of asthma that don’t respond to current treatments.
“We still desperately need more investment in research to better understand the underlying causes of these other types of asthma so that new treatments can be developed.”