A drug may help young asthma sufferers, study finds

March 16, 2011 3:11:31 PM PDT
Young inner city children suffering from allergic asthma can now breathe easier with the help of a drug that was initially on the market for use by older kids. The drug known as Xolair, has been used to decrease the frequency of asthma attacks experienced by children in the 12 years and older age range.

However, The New England Journal of Medicine has recently reported that it can dramatically improve allergic asthma, a form of the condition that is triggered by allergens such as pollen or molds. The fall and winter months can also trigger attacks because of the high prevalence of the common cold and other viral infections.

Thirteen year old Malik Johnson has suffered with allergic asthma for years. The standard inhalers that he was given by doctors provided minimal relief from symptoms.

"We were constantly going back and forth to the E.R., going to see special doctors," says Malik's mom, Lisa Washington.

A Xolair study at the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital has changed the lives of many like Malik by testing if the drug could prevent younger kids with allergic asthma from getting worse if they developed a cold. The study had successful results with the reduced need for inhaled cortisone, a thirty percent reduction in asthma attacks, and a seventy-five percent decrease in hospitalizations.

The drug works by disabling a protein called IgE which is the culprit of most allergies. Patients between the ages of six and twenty were able to benefit from Xolair.

"We were surprised because previous studies had shown only a small effect. Those were short term," says Dr. Meyer Kattan of the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.

This study lasted over a year and the drug was able to eliminate almost all of the seasonal increase of asthma provoked by viral infections.

Malik's health has made a dramatic turnaround and even though he hasn't taken Xolair for the past six months, he continues to improve. Normally, the drug is injected every two weeks with minimal side effects. Xolair costs about a thousand dollars a shot, which may not be covered by insurance, but the outcome is worth it.

"In the E.R. they knew us well. Now they say, where you been?" adds Lisa.