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Brits with severe asthma get ‘life-changing’ jab that ‘turns off’ attacks, cutting risk by 70%

Britons with severe asthma could benefit from a ‘life-changing’ jab that could reduce the risk of attacks by up to 70 per cent.

The home injection pen contains a drug called tezepelumab – which blocks an important chemical that causes seizures – and is more effective than current treatments.

Insiders have told The Mail on Sunday that the treatment will be approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) later this year following ‘dramatic’ research results.

The move follows recent approval by the European Medicines Agency for use across Europe.

BREATHE EASY: Tezepelumab pens, which can reduce the risk of severe asthma attacks by up to 70 percent, could be in use by August

Doctors have spoken of “remarkable” transformations after a course of the drug, which also causes far fewer side effects compared to powerful steroid inhalers.

A young patient completed a mountain bike marathon after not being able to train at all before.

Another patient, who was recently hospitalized several times with asthma attacks, said the drug “gave me my life back.”

About eight million Britons suffer from asthma. It develops when the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs become inflamed and narrow. For most, mild breathing problems occur only occasionally and are usually caused by allergies or exercise.

The majority control their symptoms with inhalers. Sufferers are prescribed two types: one containing steroids to prevent attacks and another to relieve symptoms when an attack occurs. But about 200,000 asthmatics have a severe form of the disease.

They usually rely on stronger drugs, including steroids, which come with a plethora of side effects, including weight gain, nosebleeds, and respiratory infections, often requiring hospitalizations.

Dr. Ian Pavord, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Oxford, who has led trials of the new drug, says: ‘I used to see it as my job to manage an orderly decline. Our only option was steroid tablets, which was pretty depressing.

‘After a few months, patients started experiencing side effects that were often worse than the disease. But we had no choice, we had to keep people alive.’

But in the past decade, a new class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies has offered hope to these patients.

Monoclonal antibodies are given as an injection or infusion and block specific proteins released by the immune system that make pneumonia worse.

Because they are a more targeted solution, they carry fewer side effects and complications – but the current generation of monoclonal antibodies usually don’t work as well in patients who have had asthma since childhood, because in some the inflammation is caused by an overreaction of the immune system, which is more difficult to stop.

However, research has shown that tezepelumab is highly effective in all patients.

About eight million Britons suffer from asthma.  It develops when the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs become inflamed and narrow (stock photo)

About eight million Britons suffer from asthma. It develops when the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs become inflamed and narrow (stock photo)

It works by blocking a chemical released by the lining of the airways that triggers a cascade of proteins that cause inflammation. ‘It’s a bit like turning off the lights at the mains or turning off the water supply,’ says Prof Pavord.

“Turning off this chemical has a much broader effect on dampening the inflammatory response.”

“You get more bang for your buck with this drug,” he adds.

‘We can help a wider variety of patients and it has a more dramatic effect than other comparable drugs.

“We think that with this drug we can achieve remission of the disease in at least one in three patients – possibly many more.”

In 2021, a large study involving 1,000 international patients found that injecting the drug once a month for a year reduced asthma attacks by 71 percent.

Professor Pavord recalls that several patients in his clinical trial were ‘unrecognizable’ after taking tezepelumab for a year.

“One was a 28-year-old woman who was having trouble breathing at night and had put on five stones in the last few years because of the steroids,” he says.

“Suddenly she had lost the extra weight and was breathing just fine, even at night.

“She could run after her three young children without getting out of breath, and that was the most important thing to her.

“Another patient was in a wheelchair and depended on an oxygen cylinder to breathe almost every day.

“After the trial, he didn’t need it anymore. We expect NICE approval to come in August.

“It will be exciting to see the effect on patients in the clinic.”

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