An eczema drug may help alleviate asthma symptoms as well as improve patients’ lung function better than standard therapies, results from twin studies have shown. Dupilumab, an injectable anti-inflammatory drug, was approved in 2017 by the US Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for eczema, a chronic skin disease. The findings showed that the rate of asthma exacerbations — such as such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest — was almost cut in half for those taking dupilumab compared with those taking a placebo.
“This drug not only reduced severe symptoms of asthma, it improved the ability to breathe,” said Mario Castro, Professor at the Washington University in St. Louis.
“That’s important because these patients have a chronic disabling disease that worsens over time with the loss of lung function. So far, we do not have a drug for asthma that changes the course of the disease,” Castro added.
Although the drug significantly reduced asthma symptoms for all patients, dupilumab worked particularly well in patients with high numbers of a specific type of white blood cell, called eosinophils, circulating in the bloodstream.
For those patients, asthma exacerbations were cut by two-thirds, the researchers said.
The drug also helped wean severe asthma patients off of chronic oral steroids, which can cause debilitating long-term side effects, including stunted growth, diabetes, cataracts and osteoporosis, Castro said.
For the studies, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the team included more than 2,000 patients who suffered from moderate to severe asthma.
In patients with moderate to severe asthma who used at least three different inhalers to control their symptoms, dupilumab drug, regardless of dose, improved lung function by approximately 130-200 milliliters greater than those receiving the placebo.
The drug also improved their rates of emergency room (ER) visits and hospitalizations.