NIH study finds omalizumab relieves seasonal asthma attacks in youth
A study of the drug omalizumab, sold under the brand name Xolair, has been conducted in eight U.S. cities by the Inner City Asthma Consortium (ICAC), a nationwide clinical trials network supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Results show it nearly eliminated seasonal increases in asthma attacks and decreased asthma symptoms among young people living in inner city environments. The findings appear in the March 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Balintfy: In the United States, asthma affects approximately 18 million adults and 7 million children under the age of 18. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. And experts note that many patients require visits to emergency rooms and hospitalizations because of an asthma attack or exacerbation.Dr. Togias: It's an asthma attack that lasts much longer than a day.
Balintfy: Dr. Alkis Togias is with Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He says an exacerbation is a worsening of asthma that can go on for a number of days and can require the patient to be placed on oral steroids.
Dr. Togias: It is not your everyday worsening of asthma where you use a few more puffs of your inhaler and it goes away. It is something more than that.
Balintfy: One aim of a recent study has been to find out if the addition of the drug omalizumab could reduce the number of exacerbations in inner-city children and youth age 6 to 20. And it does: Those who received omalizumab had a 75 percent reduction in hospitalizations.
Dr. Togias: For us, this study was not only a proof of concept that allergy is a very important factor in asthma in this particular group of children, but it opened up a path of developing perhaps new strategies of using this medication.
Balintfy: The study was conducted by the Inner City Asthma Consortium, a nationwide clinical trials network supported by the NIH. Dr. Togias notes there were three major findings in the study.
Dr. Togias: The first one was that despite the fact that these children were being treated by the consortium, by the actual doctors that were performing the study with state-of-the-art, guidelines-based treatment for asthma, despite that, this medication given on top of everything else, had a very significant effect in reducing symptoms, in reducing overall asthma exacerbations, in reducing hospitalizations but also in reducing the need for some of these other medications.
Balintfy: The second finding shows the reduction in asthma exacerbations, including an almost complete elimination of surges during peak asthma seasons, the fall and spring.
Dr. Togias: And the third finding was that we identified a sub-population of these children that appeared extremely responsive to this medication. And that was a population of children who were allergic to cockroach, but were also exposed to high levels of cockroach in their homes.
Balintfy: At the end of the study, the investigators found that, overall, children and adolescents who received omalizumab had a 25 percent reduction in days with symptoms and a 30 percent reduction in asthma attacks. Dr. Togias emphasizes that this study answers a key question:
Dr. Togias: How important is allergy in children with asthma in inner-city.
Balintfy: He adds that the consortium is about to begin a new study to test this medication during peak asthma seasons.
Dr. Togias: So what we're thinking is perhaps this medication may act very well if itís given only during the seasons when these exacerbations occur.
Balintfy: Omalizumab is currently approved in the United States for patients age 12 and older with moderate to severe, persistent allergic asthma. Patients who are interested in adding this drug to their current asthma treatment should speak with their health care professional. For more information on the Inner City Asthma Consortium and these study results, visit www.niaid.nih.gov. The NIH Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma can be viewed or downloaded at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma. This is Joe Balintfy, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Joe Balintfy
Sound Bite: Dr. Alkis Togias
Topic: omalizumab, Xolair, asthma attack, exacerbation, asthma guidelines, asthma treatment, asthma symptoms
Additional Info: NIH study finds omalizumab relieves seasonal asthma attacks in youth