Posted on 4/01/2019 by David Burgess
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellency (NICE) has today approved the drug benralizumab - given via injection - to treat severe asthma.
Around 250,000 people in the UK suffer from severe asthma, meaning they struggle to control their symptoms despite using oral steroids in their inhalers.
Half of severe asthma sufferers have elevated levels of a white blood cell called eosinophils, which has been associated with making the condition worse.
Benralizumab is part of a group of biologic drugs called monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) which will target these cells to manage asthma.
The drug could be available to people in England and Wales by April.
Professor Andrew Menzies-Gow, consultant in respiratory medicine at the Royal Brompton Hospital said: "Today’s Nice decision is excellent news for severe asthma patients in the UK.
"Severe asthma has a terrible impact on patients as, despite being treated with optimised standard care, they can suffer from multiple asthma attacks, A&E visits and hospitalisations.
"New targeted treatments such as benralizumab have the potential to improve management of this debilitating disease.
"It is now critical that all eligible patients get a timely diagnosis and referral to ensure they can access the treatments they deserve."
On approving the new drug the NICE committee said the new treatment could reduce the negative effects of using steroids.
Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK said: "Benralizumab is one of a group of life-changing drugs which have the power to improve the lives of thousands of people suffering from a type of asthma called severe eosinophilic asthma.
"This debilitating type of asthma often doesn’t respond well to regular asthma treatments, so people are forced to take oral steroid tablets that can cause toxic side effects such as diabetes and osteoporosis.
"Many still struggle with terrifying and potentially life-threatening asthma symptoms and need repeated trips to hospital.
"We welcome the approval of another biologic drug for asthma patients. This provides more choice and convenience for patients and clinicians.
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"We need to ensure that people with difficult or severe asthma are referred to specialists promptly so they can be considered for these new treatments.
"More research is needed to see if biological drugs can work well for more people with severe asthma, as there is promising evidence that more patients could benefit in the future."
Benralizumab is administered once every four weeks for the first three doses and then every eight weeks.
Manufacturer AstraZeneca says the dosing schedule could potentially free up NHS resources, which could be used to allow more severe asthma patients to be treated in clinics.
Laurent Abuaf, country president, AstraZeneca UK said: "This new treatment option has the potential to reduce the significant burden that severe asthma places on patients and their families."