Allergies play a Significant Role in Asthma Attacks

Novartis allergy drug Xolair significantly reduces seasonal asthma attacks

March 23, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Is your home, office or school environment aggravating your asthma? Does adding an allergy drug enable better breathing?

“Xolair improves asthma control on top of guidelines-based treatment," said study co-author Dr. William Busse, a professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine in Madison, said in a study published in the March 17th issue of New England Journal of Medicine. "There was less need for other medications, a reduction of symptoms and reduction of the seasonal bouts of asthma. Xolair almost totally eliminated these (seasonal) attacks."

dailyRx Insight: Cleaning up one’s environment of allergens and taking an allergy medicine may significantly reduce asthma attacks.

Xolair targets and attacks the antibody immunoglobin (IgE), which is responsible for allergic symptoms and many asthma exacerbations. "Allergies play a very important role in bringing about asthma attacks, and omalizumab, (Xolair) allowed us to reduce the allergic process," notes Dr Busse.

This recent study included 419 children, between the ages of 6 and 20, with mostly moderate to severe asthma. Sixty percent of these children were black and 37% were Hispanic. The program also included an educational segment which taught the families and children how to minimize their environmental exposure to allergens. Every family received mattress covers, pest traps and vacuum cleaners before the medications began. Half of the children received the Xolair injection on top of accepted asthma medications every 2 to 4 weeks, depending on their size. The other half of the children also received an injection, which was merely a placebo, in addition to the accepted asthma medications.

The children receiving the Xolair injections saw their asthma symptoms decrease by 25 percent. They also needed less asthma medicine when taking Xolair. Dr. Deepa Rastogi, an attending physician in the division of respiratory and sleep medicine at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore observed that the study shows the importance of reducing environmental allergy exposures and sometimes recommends allergy medications when treating young asthma sufferers.

Over 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, with the vast majority living in developed countries. 22 million people in the United States have it, with African American and latino children at the greatest risk. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs which causes the airways to narrow, causing difficulty breathing. It is caused by a number of factors, some of which are still unknown, but is generally agreed to be a primarily genetic and environmental disease. Allergens of many kinds, exercise, and exposure to sudden cold can all cause an asthma attack. Symptoms of asthma are sudden difficulty in breathing, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Asthma is treated by lifestyle modification (avoiding allergens and triggers), as well as a multitude of medication options for short term (albuterol, ipratropium, epinephrine) and long term care (steroids, leukotrien antagonists, mast cell stabilizers). There is no precise diagnostic test for asthma, instead it is diagnosed based off of symptoms (airway blockage and hypersensitivity) and improvement of symptoms related to asthma medications.

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Review Date: 
March 22, 2011
Last Updated:
May 9, 2011