People living in the UK with severe asthma could soon benefit from a jab that is supposedly ‘life-changing’.
The at-home injector contains a drug called Tezepelumab and can reduce the risk of attacks by up to 70 per cent. Tezepelumab works by blocking a key chemical that is responsible for triggering attacks, and is more effective than existing treatments.
Tezepelumab is due to be approved by NICE, otherwise known as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, later this year after positive and dramatic trial results.
Following a course of the drug, doctors have observed terrific results, which have resulted in fewer side effects when compared with modern day potent steroid inhalers.
Although an extreme case, one young patient completed a mountain biking marathon after a course of Tezepelumab, when previously they had been unable to exercise at all.
Another patient who had recently tried the drug and had been in and out of hospital because of attacks, said that Tezepelumab had given them their life back.
Asthma effects nearly 8 million people in Britain. It is caused by the swelling of the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. This makes the tubes highly sensitive, so they temporarily narrow. For the majority of people, mild breathing issues only occur occasionally and is usually caused by common triggers, such as exercise of allergies.
Most people control their asthma using an inhaler. Typically, they are prescribed two types: a preventer inhaler that contains steroids and another called a reliever to relieve symptoms when an attack occurs.
However, nearly 200,00 people have a severe form of the disease. These people require stronger medicines that include steroids, which often come with a list of side effects including weight gain, nose bleeds and chest infections, some of which regularly require hospital intervention.
Asthma drug developments
Professors leading the charge in new drug developments have almost always interpreted their work as a way to manage orderly decline. In severe patients their only option was to prescribe steroids, which more often than not is a kiss/curse situation.
After beginning to use the steroids, patients would report back with side effects that they described as worse than the disease. But for these people, there was no other choice.
Nevertheless, over the last decade medicinal research has founded a new class of drug called monoclonal antibodies.
Offering hope, monoclonal antibodies are delivered via injection or infusion, and block specific proteins released by the immune system that worsen lung inflammation.
As a more targeted solution, they involve fewer side effects and complications, but the current generation of this type of drug tend not to work so well for patients who have had asthma since childhood because, in some, inflammation is triggered by an over-reaction of the immune-system, which is a slightly harder process to halt.
In the case of Tezepelumab, studies have shown it has been highly effective in all patients who have partaken in trials.
Tezepelumab works by blocking a chemical, released in the lining of the airway, which is responsible for triggering a cascade of proteins that drive inflammation. An example given by one of the professors involved with developing new drugs, gave the example of it very much being like the valve being turn off at the mains with water.
By turning off this chemical, the dampening of the inflammatory response is a lot broader than it would otherwise be with typical steroids.
Trials of Tezepelumab have gone well, so much so that doctors think they may be able to achieve remission in at least one in three patients.
In 2021, a trial involving 1,000 international patients produced results that found that injecting the drug once a month for a year slashed asthma attack by up to 71 per cent.
After completing his trial, the professor described some of his patients as ‘unrecognisable’ after using Tezepelumab for an entire year.
One of the examples provided was a 28-year-old woman who struggled to breathe at night and had gained five stone over the previous few years because of steroid use.
All of a sudden, she dropped the extra weight and was able to breathe perfectly fine- even during the night. She was also able to run around after her three young children without becoming breathless.
Another patient had been confined to a wheelchair and relied on an oxygen cylinder which was needed almost daily. Once the trial had concluded, they no longer needed the oxygen.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties.
It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also develop during adulthood.
There’s currently no cure, but there are simple treatments that can help keep symptoms under control, and with new treatments like Tezepelumab, who knows what the future holds for asthma sufferers.
Asthma can have a variety of symptoms affecting your breathing and chest. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- A whistling sound when breathing
- A tight chest, which may feel like a band is tightening around your chest
These symptoms can sometimes get worse. This is what is known as an asthma attack.
Asthma attacks kill 3 people in the UK each day. But many of these deaths could be avoided. Getting on the correct treatment plan is vital in reducing the chances of an asthma attack occurring.
Signs that you may be having an asthma attack include:
- The above symptoms are getting worse
- Your reliever inhaler is not helping
- You’re too breathless to speak, eat or sleep
- Your breathing is getting faster and it feels like you cannot catch your breath
- Your peak flow score is lower than normal
- Children may also complain of a tummy or chest ache