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Dry, itchy skin is a common symptom of atopic dermatitis or eczema, a chronic inflammatory skin disorder common among young children. The condition does not affect the lives of the patients, but their families too. That debilitating itch can cause sleep disturbance and poor neurocognitive development in children. Here's the good news for young eczema patients researchers have shown that biologic drug 'Dupilumab' is highly effective in reducing the signs and symptoms of eczema in infants and young children.
The efficacy of the drug was confirmed in a multi-site international phase III study led by Northwestern Medicine. The is believed to be the first study to treat eczema in children as young as 6 months with a monoclonal antibody instead of using immune-suppressing medications.
More than half the children in the study experienced a significant reduction (75 per cent) in signs of eczema, including itching, after a 16-week course of dupilumab. Parents reported improvement in their children's sleep quality as well as change in their personalities as they were able to lead a normal life.
The results of the study, conducted in 31 sites in Europe and North America, were published in The Lancet.
According to the researchers, this drug targets a key immune pathway related to allergies. Previous studies have shown the efficacy and safety of dupilumab in adults, adolescents, and school-aged children. Now, the new study has shown that it is safe for children under 5 years.
Based on the study results, Dupilumab is being made available to infants and preschoolers as young as 6 months of age. The medication is given as a monthly shot by the parents or a health care provider. The effect of the drug is as good as that of the risky immunosuppressant medications, the researchers noted.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Sanofi had jointly developed dupilumab. The companies also sponsored the phase III study of dupilumab for treating moderate-to-severe eczema in infants and children 6 months to 5 years old.
Eczema is estimated to affect more than 19 per cent of all children under 6 years of age, with the onset of disease commonly reported during the first five years of life.
Dr. Amy Paller, chair of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, noted that eczema is much more than just itchy skin.
"It is a devastating disease. The quality of life of severe eczema -- not only for the child but also parents -- is equivalent to many life-threatening diseases," he said, as quoted by ScienceDaily.
Most young children with eczema have mild symptoms, which can be managed with steroid ointment and moisturizers. In case of moderate-to-severe disease, patients need more aggressive management like immune-suppressing medications, such as oral steroids. But because immunosuppressants can lead to many side effects, they are not considered safe for children.
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