McMaster University Logo A latest study has found that patients, who require a lot of medication including prednisone to control their disease, benefit from mepolizumab injections. Injections of the antibody mepolizumab benefit patients with eosonophilic asthma. This is a persisting type of airway inflammation with inflammatory cells called eosinophils. This study was conducted by Dr. Param Nair and colleagues based at The Firestone Institute for Respiratory Disease, St. Joseph’s Healthcare.

It is estimated that five to eight percent of the roughly three million asthma patients in Canada, suffer from severe asthma. It is also stated that half of these have severe asthma combined with persistent eosinophilia. Although relatively smaller in number, this group of people suffering from asthma result in huge costs to the health care system. This could be due to the occurrence of frequent flare-ups which may even require hospitalization.

“Mepolizumab works by blocking the production of eosinophils. By preventing their production, we were able to improve asthma, reduce the need for prednisone and really show that eosinophils are important in causing asthma symptoms in these patients.” mentioned Senior author of the study, Dr. Paul O’Byrne, chair of the Department of Medicine at McMaster University.

Mepolizumab is said to be an investigational drug which is not currently approved for use in Canada. To prove the effectiveness of this drug, the study investigators enlisted 20 mature asthmatic patients who were around 56 – 58 years of age. In addition to the other available asthma medication, these subjects were said to be taking about 10 milligrams of prednisone for approximately nine years.

During the six month study, nine patients received mepolizumab, while 11 were given a placebo. Those receiving mepolizumab apparently reduced their prednisone dosage without their asthma getting any worse. On the other hand the patients in the placebo group experienced an increase in their asthma, when their prednisone dosage was reduced.

At the beginning of the study, eosinophils in the blood were high in all patients. “But, mepolizumab reduced the number of eosinophils to the normal range and kept them at that level for the entire study,” said O’Byrne.

All the patients suffering from severe asthma have been cautioned by O’Byrne against the use of mepolizumab. He states that, “Many patients with severe asthma would not get benefit from this treatment approach.” This antibody is said to be only helpful for those people suffering from eosinophilic asthma.

Another study that was conducted on about 61 patients also revealed that the mepolizumab therapy could effectively treat people suffering from severe eosonophilic asthma.

Their findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.