Health News

Experimental drug helps patients with severe asthma in trial

A drug targeting inflammation in the airway showed the potential to significantly improve the condition of people with the most severe asthma, researchers in a small trial report.

The drug Fevipiprant improved lung function, reduced inflammation and significantly decreased asthma symptoms in a recent trial in England, according to a new study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Asthma is an incurable condition caused by inflammation in the airway that, when made worse, results in the tightening of muscles and an increase in mucus production, reducing the ability to breathe.

Fevipiprant would be the first new asthma treatment introduced in about 20 years, deviating from the inhalers and steroid drugs generally used to reduce asthma attacks and constant symptoms some patients experience.

The recent trial conducted by researchers at the University of Leicester in England was aimed at reducing inflammation in asthma patients, but researchers found the drug to be even more effective than expected.

“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,” Christopher Brightling, a clinical professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Leicester, said in a press release. “Most treatments might improve some of these features of disease, but with Fevipiprant improvements were seen with all of the types of tests.”

For the study, researchers recruited 61 asthma patients, treating 30 with Fevipiprant and 31 with a placebo for 12 weeks, using a two-week placebo run-in period at the start of the study and another six-week washout period at the end of the study to measure the effects of the drug before and after its use.

The primary measure of efficacy was sputum eosinophil count, a measure of white blood cells that increase in the airway in asthma patients — patients without asthma measure less than 1 percent, while moderate-to-severe patients usually measure around 5 percent.

During the 12-week study, patients on the drug saw sputum eosinophil percentages drop from a mean of 5.4 percent to 1.1 percent, while those on the placebo saw their mean measurement decline from 4.6 percent to 3.9 percent.

“We already know that using treatments to target eosinophilic airway inflammation can substantially reduce asthma attacks,” Brightling said. “This new treatment, Fevipiprant, could likewise help to stop preventable asthma attacks, reduce hospital admissions and improve day-to-day symptoms — making it a ‘game changer’ for future treatment.”

Brightling is currently working on a much larger trial of the drug with about 850 patients, data for which is expected sometime in 2018, The Guardian reports.