Adding Omalizumab Improves Asthma Control in Youth

When drug added to guidelines-based therapy, reduces need for other medications

WEDNESDAY, March 16 (HealthDay News) -- The addition of omalizumab to a regimen of guidelines-based therapy among youth with persistent asthma appears to improve asthma control and reduce the need for other medications to control the condition, according to a study published in the March 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study, William W. Busse, M.D., of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, and colleagues randomized 419 inner-city children, adolescents, and young adults with persistent asthma to omalizumab or placebo to assess the effectiveness of omalizumab when added to guidelines-based therapy. The trial duration was 60 weeks.

Compared to placebo, the investigators found that omalizumab significantly reduced the number of days with asthma symptoms from 1.96 to 1.48 days per two-week interval, a 24.5 percent decrease. In addition, omalizumab significantly reduced the proportion of individuals who had one or more exacerbations from 48.8 to 30.3 percent. The investigators also found that improvements occurred with omalizumab despite declines in the use of inhaled glucocorticoids and long-acting beta-agonists.

"In summary, omalizumab reduces symptoms and exacerbations in children, adolescents, and young adults with persistent allergic asthma, providing protection beyond that conferred with guidelines-directed care," the authors write. "Our findings may also help identify those patients most likely to have a response to omalizumab and provide insight into novel mechanisms of asthma exacerbations that could lead to improved treatment."

The study was funded in part by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, and Dey Pharma and SC Johnson provided EpiPens and household pest control, respectively. Several authors disclosed financial relationships with Novartis Pharmaceuticals and/or other pharmaceutical companies.

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Physician's Briefing

Published on March 16, 2011

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