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The multinational study, as published in The Lancet, unveils a groundbreaking approach to managing severe asthma without the common reliance on high-dose inhaled steroids. Focused on the biological therapy benralizumab, the study reports that 92% of patients using this treatment could safely reduce their inhaled steroid dose, with over 60% successfully eliminating steroid use. Asthma, a prevalent respiratory condition affecting nearly 300 million individuals globally, is particularly challenging for the 3 to 5% with severe asthma. These patients experience daily symptoms of breathlessness, chest tightness, and persistent coughing, often leading to frequent hospitalizations due to asthma attacks.
This significant development could transform the lives of severe asthma patients by minimizing or eliminating the often severe side effects associated with regular high-dose inhaled steroids. These side effects include conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes, and cataracts, providing hope for improved quality of life for the nearly 300 million people worldwide affected by asthma.
Severe asthma, affecting 3 to 5% of the global asthma population, results in daily symptoms such as breathlessness, chest tightness, and persistent cough, often leading to frequent hospitalizations due to asthma attacks. The SHAMAL study, led by Professor David Jackson, Head of the Severe Asthma Centre at Guy's and St Thomas' and Professor of Respiratory Medicine at King's College London, could offer a game-changing solution to alleviate the challenges faced by severe asthma patients.
Benralizumab, a biologic therapy, plays a pivotal role in revolutionizing severe asthma care. This therapy effectively reduces the number of inflammatory cells known as eosinophils, which are produced in abnormal quantities in the airways of severe asthma patients and are crucial contributors to asthma attacks. Administered through injections every four to eight weeks, benralizumab is available in specialist NHS asthma centers.
The study encompassed 208 patients across 22 sites in four countries the UK, France, Italy, and Germany. Randomly assigned to taper their high-dose inhaled steroid over 32 weeks, followed by a 16-week maintenance period, approximately 90% of patients experienced no worsening of asthma symptoms and remained free of exacerbations throughout the 48-week study duration.
While the study's results are promising, similar studies will be crucial to determine the safety and efficacy of reducing or eliminating high-dose steroid use with other biological therapies. This breakthrough offers hope for a paradigm shift in the management of severe asthma, potentially minimizing side effects and enhancing the overall well-being of affected individuals. It also opens doors to more personalized and efficient treatment strategies, ultimately improving the quality of life for individuals grappling with the challenges of severe asthma.