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AirPROM involved in major asthma treatment breakthrough

"This new drug could be a game changer for future treatment of asthma" -  Professor Chris Brightling, AirPROM co-ordinator, University of Leicester and NIHR Senior Research Fellow.

The first new asthma pill for nearly 20 years has the power to dramatically reduce the severity of the condition, a ground-breaking study led by the University of Leicester has found.

The research was funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the EU (AirPROM), and is described by AirPROM co-ordinator Prof. Chris Brightling as “a game changer for future treatment of asthma.”

Three people die every day because of asthma attacks and research shows that two thirds of asthma deaths are preventable.

Fevipiprant significantly decreased the symptoms of asthma, improved lung function, reduced inflammation and repaired the lining of airways. The drug has been accelerated into late stage clinical trials and subject to further research could be available on the NHS within three years.  To date the drug has had a “favourable safety profile” with no serious adverse events reported.

A total of 61 people took part in the research. One group was given 225mg of the drug twice a day for 12 weeks, while also using their inhaler, and the other participants were assigned to a placebo group.

The study was designed primarily to examine the effects on inflammation in the airway by measuring the sputum eosinophil count. The sputum eosinophil is an inflammation measurement of a white blood cell that increases in asthma and is used to assess the severity of this condition.

People who do not have asthma have a percentage of less than one and those with moderate-to-severe asthma typically have a reading of about five per cent.

The rate in people with moderate-to-severe asthma taking the medication was reduced from an average of 5.4 percent to 1.1 percent over 12 weeks, according to the study published today in the prestigious The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal.

Professor Brightling said: “A unique feature of this study was how it included measurements of symptoms, lung function using breathing tests, sampling of the airway wall and CT scans of the chest to give a complete picture of how the new drug works.

“Most treatments might improve some of these features of disease, but with Fevipiprant improvements were seen with all of the types of tests. “We already know that using treatments to target eosinophilic airway inflammation can substantially reduce asthma attacks. “This new treatment, Fevipiprant, could likewise help to stop preventable asthma attacks, reduce hospital admissions and improve day-to-day symptoms- making it a ‘game changer’ for future treatment.”  Professor Brightling added that the latest advance underpinned the work of the Institute of Precision Medicine, a Centre of Excellence that coalesces and aligns the research missions of the University of Leicester and the NHS in Leicester.

Future treatment of human disease will increasingly move from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to one of tailoring the treatment to the individual patient.

AirPROM has demonstrated how an integrated approach, involving modelling, measurement and clinical validation, can accelerate the development of new therapies and improve existing methods.