Three new drugs revolutionize the lives of Britons with a devastating form of asthma. Unlike other drugs, which only deal with the symptoms, they get to the heart of the condition – with remarkable results.
The latest breakthrough came last week when NHS chiefs gave green light to benralizumab, also known under the brand name Fasenra, a monthly prick that helps patients who have exhausted all other treatment options and who are regularly admitted to hospital for breathing problems.
The drug corresponds to mepolizumab, or Nucala, and reslizumab, also called Cinqaero, which were approved two years ago for the treatment of eosinophil asthma, a serious form of the disease.
Rachel McCarthy, a 43-year-old company director, has barely walked up the stairs to the mountains after prescribing mepolizumab
The benefits can be dramatic. Rachel McCarthy, a 43-year-old company director, has barely been able to climb up the stairs to the mountains after prescribing mepolizumab.
She says: & # 39; Within three months I saw a dramatic improvement and in June last year I climbed Ben Nevis, something that had surpassed my wildest dreams.
& # 39; To stand and breathe as an asthmatist, the most beautiful air in my lungs was the best in the world. & # 39;
Experts are increasingly aware that asthma is not just one disease but a collection of disorders that must be treated differently.
Eosinophil asthma can not be controlled with normal inhalers, even at high doses. As a result, the 100,000 Britons are prescribed with the condition often powerful steroid pills that risk the side effects of diabetes and weight gain on mood swings and osteoporosis. However, many still end up in the hospital with life-threatening attacks.
Eosinophil asthma, which normally develops in adulthood, is caused by inflammatory white blood cells, called eosinophils, that collect in the airways.
The three new drugs are man-made antibodies designed to block IL-5, a chemical of the immune system that attracts eosinophils to the airways and helps them to thrive. In trials, the drugs halved the number of attacks that patients suffered and significantly improved the quality of life.
They are prescribed by specialized centers and given to the hospital every four to eight weeks as jabs or infusions. When they work, patients can cut less on their oral steroids. However, they still have to take their inhalers. Side effects include fatigue, headache, fatigue and back pain, and increased susceptibility to infections.
Mepolizumab, reslizumab and benralizumab belong to a class of medicines known as biologics and they work in slightly different ways.
Rachael McCarthy from Lincoln, whose severe asthma is now under control because of a new drug she is taking
Researchers try to find out how they can ensure that a patient gets the solution that suits them best. They also try to make versions that can be given at home instead of in the hospital.
Dr. Samantha Walker, an asthma and allergy expert and research director at charity Astma UK, said that while organic medicines are not a cure and do not work for everyone, in some people the effects are life-changing.
"I have known people with severe asthma to give up their work or to retire ten years early," she says.
& # 39; People become slower and slower because they do not want to breathe. & # 39;
Dr. Walker added: & # 39; For those who respond to organic products, they are really changeable.
Rachel's asthma was so serious that she stopped with socializing, gave up exercising and could barely climb the stairs. She says: & # 39; I had my first asthma attack at 22 and since then my asthma has taken over my life. By the age of 30, I was hospitalized every month with serious attacks.
I was put on strong steroids and although they helped me to breathe, they made me much more powerful and I became depressed. My husband Rick knows only too well that sometimes I felt I could not go any further. & # 39;
Since the beginning of monthly injections with mepolizumab in October 2017, she stopped taking steroids, went back to the gym, dropped two clothing sizes and climbed the highest mountain in Britain.
The dramatic improvement of her health also means that a long-cherished dream to start a family has become a possibility. It is difficult to assume how this new medicine has given me my life after so many years of literally demanding that my life is over & # 39 ;, says Rachel from Lincoln.
Meindert Boysen, head of the technological evaluation at the NHS drug watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), says: "People with severe eosinophil asthma that is not adequately controlled often have a severe worsening of the quality of life – it can stop them from performing many basic daily tasks, lead to psychological problems such as anxiety and depression and leave them constantly in fear of a possible deadly asthma attack
& # 39; By keeping their asthma better under control, biological treatments have changed the lives of these patients. & # 39;
- Asthma UK finances research into the development of pioneering asthma treatments. Go to asthma.org.uk/donate to donate.
Ever wondered why …
People say that you should not read on the toilet?
It may be the only place where you can get peace – but reading while you are on the toilet may be bad for us. Physical therapist Sammy Margo (sammymargo physiotherapy.com) explains: • As with any muscle, the pelvic floor, which holds the pelvic organs in place, must be used correctly. Everything that puts pressure on it – including taking an & # 39; ammunition position & # 39; longer than necessary – will cause weakening. Focus on going to the toilet – do not read – and spend no more than ten minutes having a bowel movement. & # 39;