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Drug effective in treating asthma

People who suffer from severe asthma have been given new hope from a "groundbreaking" new antibody therapy, according to scientists.

Research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), found that injections of the drug mepolizumab help sufferers control their condition and avoid using steroids.

Separate studies in the UK and Canada looked at asthmatics with a persisting type of airway inflammation with inflammatory cells called eosinophils.

Senior author of the British-based study, Professor Ian Pavord from Asthma UK, said: "The last decade has seen a limited number of alternative treatment approaches become available for asthma, so the possible benefits that mepolizumab could bring to the half a million people with severe asthma in the UK are incredibly exciting."

According to Professor Pavord, the treatment not only reduces severe asthma attacks by up to 50%, but the drug also enables people with severe asthma to stop their use of oral steroids and avoid a number of reported side-affects associated with them.

"However, the key to really maximising the potential of this new therapy is identifying exactly which people with severe asthma will benefit from the treatment, something that can only be determined by measuring airway inflammation," he added.

In total, more than five million people in the UK, including 1.1 million children, are currently receiving treatment for asthma.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Asthma UK