Researchers have completed a third phase of clinical trials of a new drug that could change the treatment of moderate-to-severe asthma.
Fevipiprant is the first addition to treatment of asthma in 20 years and it gives instant relief to patients.
Taken twice daily, the pill has shown to reduce inflammation by 80 per cent. Asthma treatment has not changed over the past 20 years, with patients relying on inhalers and steroids. The latter carry a high risk of weight gain, diabetes, osteoporosis and high blood pressure.
According to the World Health Organisation, short-term medications are used to relieve symptoms of the chronic disease, which are characterised by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing.
Medications such as long-term inhaled steroids are needed to control the progression of severe asthma. People with persistent symptoms on the other hand must take long-term medication daily to control the underlying inflammation and prevent symptoms and exacerbations.
WHO said inadequate access to medicines is one of the major reasons for the poor control of asthma in many settings.
However, the development of the drug opens up the possibility that about 250,000 patients with severe asthma could now take a pill twice a day instead of relying on steroids. It could also benefit at least another 250,000 people who have the more moderate form of the disease.
“Fevipiprant had a favourable safety profile, with no deaths or serious adverse events reported,” reads an excerpt of the study published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
Professor Chris Brightling, National Institute for Health research renior research fellow at the University of Leicester in the UK said: “This new drug could be a game changer for future treatment of asthma.”
During an asthma attack, the lining of the bronchial tubes swells, causing the airways to narrow and reducing the flow of air into and out of the lungs.
WHO states that the causes of asthma are not completely understood.
“However, risk factors for developing asthma include inhaling asthma ‘triggers,’ such as allergens, tobacco smoke and chemical irritants. Asthma cannot be cured, but appropriate management can control the disorder and enable people to enjoy a good quality of life,” the UN agency states.
The Global Asthma Report 2014 estimates that the disease may affect as many as 334 million people globally.
Globally, about 300 million people have asthma, and current trends suggest that an additional 100 million people may be living with asthma by 2025.
The WHO estimates about 250,000 deaths from asthma every year, mainly in low and middle-income countries.
A total of 61 people took part in the research where one group was given 225mg of the drug twice a day for 12 weeks and the other participants were given placebos.
Fevipiprant and the placebo were added to the medications the participants were already taking. The study was designed to examine the effects on inflammation in the airway by measuring the sputum eosinophil count.
The sputum eosinophil is an inflammation measurement of a white blood cell that increases in asthma and is used to assess the severity of this condition.
People who do not have asthma have a percentage of less than one and those with moderate-to-severe asthma typically have a reading of about five per cent. The rate in people with moderate-to-severe asthma taking the medication was reduced from an average of 5.4 per cent to 1.1 per cent over 12 weeks, according to the study.
“A unique feature of this study was how it included measurements of symptoms, lung function using breathing tests, sampling of the airway wall and CT scans of the chest to give a complete picture of how the new drug works,” added Professor Brightling.