New asthma pill designed to combat severe symptoms shows great promise
Date: AUG 2016
An experimental pill may be the revolutionary treatment asthma patients have been waiting for. A study, conducted by The University of Leicester and published in the Lancet Respiratory Journal, examined the effectiveness of this new treatment, and found that those suffering with severe asthma symptoms experienced less inflammation in their airways as a result of taking the medication.1
Asthma affects more than 5 million people in the UK alone and it is the most common respiratory condition. The symptoms of asthma can range from mild to severe, with most people only experiencing occasional symptoms, although a few people will have problems the majority of the time.2
The most common symptoms of asthma are wheezing, shortness of breath, a tight chest (which may feel like a band is tightening around it) and coughing. Symptoms usually worsen at night and early in the morning, more so if the condition is not well controlled. Symptoms can also become worse if exposed to a trigger, such as exercise or allergens. When symptoms become significantly worse, this is commonly known as an asthma attack, or “acute asthma exacerbation” and it can be a frightful and debilitating experience. According to Asthma UK, every 10 seconds someone is having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack, and in 2014 alone 1,216 people died from asthma.3
For the majority of those whose asthma is mild to moderate, treatment such as inhalers can control the condition. However for those who suffer with more severe symptoms, inhalers may not be sufficient enough treatment.
Enter in new treatment Fevipiprant, a pill designed for adults with chronic asthma. Scientists at the University of Leicester looked at 60 patients who had severe asthma that could not be remedied despite using steroid inhalers and being seen regularly by specialists.4 Half the group were given the Fevipiprant pill for three months alongside taking their usual medications, with the other half continuing to take their normal medication as well as a placebo pill.
While taking the Fevipiprant pill, patients had fewer inflammatory blood cells in their phlegm and airways, which can be key signs of asthma. Those taking part in the research trial were astounded by the difference it had made to the severity of their asthma, with one trial participant who had had severe asthma for 16 years saying: "I felt like a completely different person. I had more get up and go, I was less wheezy and for the first time in years, I felt really, really well."
It is clear that a more long-term trial is needed to see how effective the treatment is long term; however it is an exciting development that shows great promise.
Dr Samantha Walker at Asthma UK spoke about the exciting research:
"This research shows massive promise and should be greeted with cautious optimism. The possibility of taking a pill instead of using an inhaler will be a very welcome one, particularly as this study focused on people who develop the condition in later life, some of whom we know can struggle with the dexterity required to use an inhaler…”5
"More research is needed and we're a long way off seeing a pill for asthma being made available over the pharmacy counter, but it's an exciting development."
With the NHS spending an average of 1 billion pounds a year treating people with asthma, the hope of a new more effective treatment is indeed revolutionary.6 Prof Stephen Durham, a lung specialist at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, said: "Prof Chris Brightling's group in Leicester provide compelling evidence that the novel tablet treatment has the ability to reduce asthmatic inflammation, increase lung function and improve asthma control in this severe group.
"The data strongly support further studies to see whether Fevipiprant may also reduce the frequency of asthma attacks, avoid steroid tablet side effects and reduce NHS costs in the management of these severely ill patients."
1. Lancet Respiratory Medical Journal, Fevipiprant, a prostaglandin D2 receptor 2 antagonist, in patients with persistent eosinophilic asthma: a single-centre, randomised, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial, Accessed August 2016.
2. NHS Choices, Asthma, Accessed 2016.
3. Asthma UK, https://www.asthma.org.uk/about/media/facts-and-statistics/, Accessed August 2016.
4. University of Leicester, Asthma pill could reduce symptoms in severe sufferers, Accessed August 2016.
5. University of Leicester, Asthma pill could reduce symptoms in severe sufferers, Accessed August 2016.
6. Asthma UK, https://www.asthma.org.uk/about/media/facts-and-statistics/, Accessed August 2016.
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Last revised: 12 August 2016
Next review: 12 August 2019