An experimental asthma drug being developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) almost halved the number of asthmatic attacks in patients suffering from a hard-to-treat form of the disease during a clinical trial.
Mepolizumab, an injectable antibody asthma treatment, has been designed to treat a form of asthma in which white blood cells, called eosinophils, cause inflammation of airways in the lungs, inhibiting breathing.
GSK hopes to move the drug, which works by inhibiting immune system signalling chemical interleukin-5, into final Phase III development before the end of 2012 following the promising results.
The year-long trial, which included 621 patients, found that the number treated with mepolizumab who suffered from an episode requiring oral corticosteroids or a hospital visit was half that of those given a placebo.
University Hospitals of Leicester National Health Service Trust respiratory medicine consultant Professor Ian Pavord led a mid-stage study of mepolizumab and labelled the drug a potentially important advance for asthma patients.
"It seems to be a safe and effective treatment option for patients with eosinophilic asthma that is associated with frequent flare-ups, and may reduce the need for conventional treatment with oral corticosteroids that can have serious side effects including osteoporosis, high blood pressure and impaired growth in children," Pavord said.
GlaxoSmithKline already boasts an impressive portfolio of asthma treatments and approval for mepolizumab is likely to increase the company's dominance of the lung drug market.
"Mepolizumab is one of a number of medicines in GSK's respiratory pipeline and highlights our commitment to develop a broad respiratory portfolio which meets the needs of different patient populations," the company said in a statement.
Image: GlaxoSmithKline corporate headquarters, located in London, UK. Photo: Courtesy of GlaxoSmithKline.