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Allergy-induced asthma makes life miserable for more than ten million Americans. But help may be on the way.
Now a government advisory committee has approved a new treatment that could help ease their misery.
The drug is called Xolair. It takes a new approach to treating asthma caused by allergies.
Instead of just treating symptoms like most existing medicines, this stops the basic mechanisms of the allergy by targetting proteins known as i-g-e antibodies.
People who have allergies produce these i-g-e antibodies in large numbers.
Xolair attaches itself to these antibodies and blocks them from causing the symptoms of allergies.
The drug is made by Genentech and Novartis.
In a video news release issued by the company, the researchers say this can help people with the most severe forms of the disease.
Michael Kaliner/ Asthma & Allergy Researcher: "IT TURNS OUT THAT THE COSTS OF ASTHMA, WHICH IS HUGE, IS LARGELY DRVIEN BY THE 20% OF PATIENTS WITH SEVERE ASTHMA. THIS NEW TREATMENT SHOULD MAKE THOSE PATIENTS MUCH EASIER TO MANAGE."
But Xolair is not for everyone.
It has to be given by injection every two to four weeks and it is limited to people over age 12, whose asthma is caused by allergies.
However, Dr. Russell Leong, an asthma and allergy expert at California Pacific Medical Center, says Xolair could help other kinds of allergies.
Dr. Russell Leong/ CPMC Allergy Expert: "IT HAS BEEN SHOWN TO HELP ALLERGIC RHINITIS. THERE HAS BEEN TALK IT COULD HELP CERTAIN CASES OF FOOD ALLERGIES. BUT AGAIN, THAT IS SOMETHING THAT NEEDS TO BE STUDIED TO SEE HOW IT FITS INTO THE OVERALL TREATMENT."
Approval of the drug has been delayed two years while more studies were done on possible side effects. But now the government's advisory committee has unanimously approved it.
The next step is for full FDA approval, that could come as early as June.