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Xolair (Omalizumab) Improves Childhood Asthma Symptoms


Children with asthma may experience a significant improvement in symptoms if they take Xolair (omalizumab) in addition to asthma therapy recommended by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to results of a new study. These findings may lead to an improvement in treatment for childhood asthma, especially for children and adolescents living in the inner cities.

The Inner City Asthma Consortium covered eight cities

Asthma affects about 9 million children in the United States, and is the main cause of chronic illness in this population. Most children experience their first symptoms by age 5, although they can begin at any age. Risk factors for childhood asthma include being male, being black, being raised in a low-income environment, low birth weight, presence of allergies, family history of allergies and/or asthma, and exposure to tobacco smoke before and/or after birth.

Several of these risk factors came into play in the recent study, which was conducted in eight cities in the United States by the Inner City Asthma Consortium (ICAC). The study included 419 young people ages 6 to 20 years old who had been diagnosed with moderate to severe allergic asthma of more than one year duration. Sixty percent of the participants were African American, 37 percent were Hispanic, and all lived in a city environment (Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, New York City, Tucson, and Washington DC).

All the participants were taking NIH guidelines-based asthma treatment when they entered the study. At that time they were randomly assigned to take either omalizumab or placebo.

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The investigators found that children who took omalizumab did not experience the increase in seasonal asthma attacks in the fall, which are associated with viral airway infections such as colds.

According to William Busse, MD, the principal investigator of ICAC and professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “because the drug specifically targets IgE, which is the antibody responsible for allergies, our observations show the possible interplay between allergies, respiratory viruses and IgE in provoking asthma attacks.”

This finding is especially important because severe seasonal asthma attacks cause many young people to miss school and to require emergency department care. Discovery of new effective treatment regimens for young people with allergic asthma could significantly improve their quality of life.

Stephen J. Teach, MD, MPH, medical director and principal investigator of IMPACT DC, a program of pediatric asthma care and research at Children’s National Medical Center, and one of the Site Principal Investigators for the ICAC study, noted “the next step for the ICAC is to focus more closely on the role of omalizumab in reducing fall exacerbations of asthma.” And that may help many children, and their parents, breathe a little easier.

Children’s National Medical Center