Three new drugs are revolutionizing the lives of the British with a devastating form of asthma. Unlike other drugs, which only treat the symptoms, they reach the heart of the condition – with remarkable results.
The latest discovery came last week when NHS leaders gave the go-ahead to benralizumab, also known as the Fasenra brand, a monthly coup that helps those suffering from having exhausted all other treatment options and is regularly hospitalized due to respiratory problems.
The drug joins mepolizumab, or Nucala, and reslizumab, also called Cinqaero, which was approved two years ago to treat eosinophilic asthma, a serious form of the disease.
Rachel McCarthy, a forty-three-year-old director, has just been able to climb stairs to climb mountains since mepolizumab was prescribed
The benefits can be dramatic. Rachel McCarthy, a forty-three-year-old director, has gone from being barely able to climb stairs to climb mountains since mepolizumab was prescribed.
He says: "Within three months I noticed a dramatic improvement and in June of last year I climbed the Ben Nevis, something that had gone beyond my wildest dreams.
"Being on top as an asthmatic and breathing the most wonderful air in my lungs was the most beautiful thing in the world."
Experts are increasingly aware of the fact that asthma is not just a disease, but a collection of conditions that need to be treated differently.
Eosinophilic asthma can not be controlled with normal inhalers, even at high doses. As a result, 100,000 Britons are often prescribed powerful steroid pills that are likely to have side effects due to diabetes and weight gain in the event of mood swings and osteoporosis. However, many still end up in the hospital with potentially lethal attacks.
The eosinophilic asthma, which normally develops into adulthood, is triggered by white blood cells responsible for inflammation called eosinophils that collect in the airways.
The three new drugs are antibodies created by humans to block IL-5, a chemical of the immune system that attracts eosinophils to the respiratory tract and helps them thrive. In trials, drugs have halved the number of attacks on patients and significantly improved their quality of life.
They are prescribed by specialized centers and administered as blows or infusions every 4-8 weeks in the hospital. If they work, patients can reduce their oral steroids. However, they still have to take their inhalers. Side effects include tiredness, headaches, fatigue and back pain and increased susceptibility to infections.
Mepolizumab, reslizumab and benralizumab belong to a class of drugs known as biological and work in slightly different ways.
Rachael McCarthy of Lincoln, whose severe asthma is now under control due to a new drug she is taking
Researchers are trying to figure out how to guarantee a patient what is best for them. They are also trying to create versions that can be given at home rather than in the hospital.
Dr. Samantha Walker, an expert in asthma and allergy and research director at the charity Asthma UK, said that while organic medicines are not a cure and do not work for everyone, in some people the effects are changing the life.
"I met people with severe asthma who stopped working or retired ten years earlier," he says.
"People become slower and slower because they do not want to not be able to breathe."
The dott. Walker added: "For those who respond to biological needs, they are really changing the game."
Rachel's asthma was so severe that she stopped socializing, gave up the sport and barely managed to climb the stairs. He says: "I had my first asthma attack at age 22, and since then my life has been asthma.At the age of 30, I was hospitalized every month with serious attacks.
"I was subjected to high-strength steroids, and although they helped me breathe, they made me a lot of fat and left me very depressed, my husband Rick knows all too well that sometimes I felt I could not go on."
Since he started monthly injections of mepolizumab in October 2017, he stopped taking steroids, returned to the gym, lost two sizes and climbed the highest mountain in Britain.
The remarkable improvement of his health also means that a long-standing dream of having a family has become a possibility. "It's hard to understand how this new drug has given me back my life after so many years of literally wanting my life to end," says Lincoln's Rachel.
Meindert Boysen, head of technology assessment at the NHS drug monitoring service, the National Institute for Health and Nursing Excellence (NICE), states: "People with severe eosinophilic asthma who are not Properly controlled often they have a serious impairment of quality of life – they can keep them from doing many basic daily activities, lead to psychological problems including anxiety and depression and leave them in constant fear of a potentially lethal asthma attack
"By keeping the asthma better under control, biological treatments have transformed the lives of these patients."
- Asthma UK funds research for the development of innovative treatments for asthma. To donate, visit asthma.org.uk/donate.
Have you ever wondered why …
People say you should not read on the toilet?
It could be the only place you can have peace – but reading while you're in the bathroom is potentially harmful to us. The physiotherapist Sammy Margo (sammymargo physiotherapy.com) explains: "Like any muscle, the pelvic floor, which holds the pelvic organs in place, must be used correctly, anything that puts pressure on it, including the adoption of a "emptying" position longer than necessary, will cause a weakening, concentrate on going to the toilet – do not read – and do not spend more than ten minutes with a bowel movement. "