Biologics for Severe Asthma


CLEVELAND, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — About 25 million Americans suffer from asthma. For people with severe forms of the disease, every single breath can be a struggle. Now, there’s new hope for these patients

A year ago, Lynn Kocka never dreamed she’d be able to exercise like this. Her severe asthma made just about every activity a challenge.

Kocka told Ivanhoe, “I would take a few feet running, and I would cough, so I couldn’t do it so much.”

Kocka tried inhalers and oral meds, but nothing eased her symptoms.

“I could never understand quite why I couldn’t get rid of all of this congestion,” she said.

Then Kocka’s doctors at the Cleveland clinic suggested she try something new, a class of medicines called biologics.

“For patients with severe asthma who have been suffering for years, this is now the time where we are seeing some hope,” detailed Sumita Khatri, MD, Co-Director of the Asthma Center at Cleveland Clinic.

Standard treatments for asthma only address inflammation in the body. Biologics target specific pathways that trigger symptoms. For instance, they can zero-in on an antibody that’s known to cause an allergic response in people with allergic asthma.

Dr. Khatri explained, “If we can figure out which pathway is particularly causing the most problems, then we can try to target that.”

There are currently three biologics on the market, but many more are in development. In clinical trials, these drugs lowered asthma flare-ups, some by about 50 percent, lowered the rate of hospital and ER visits, and reduced the need for steroid drugs.

Kocka receives an injection of a biologic every four weeks. She said she noticed improvement right away.

“Within three days, it was phenomenal.” Kocka said.

Now she can do anything and go anywhere without her asthma holding her back.

“You get your life back, totally, 100 percent.”

Candidates for biologic treatment are patients with severe forms of asthma that haven’t been helped with standard treatments.

Contributors to this news report include: Julie Marks, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT #2408

BACKGROUND: Asthma is a debilitating ailment where the airways narrow, swell, and produce too much mucus which results in difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, or a life threatening asthma attack. It can be challenging to live a normal life with asthma because it can be brought on by exercise, workplace irritants (fumes, gas, or dust), or allergies such as pet dander or mold spores. Basic inhalers do not always work and trouble breathing can turn dangerous quickly. Asthma is most likely caused by a combination of environmental factors and genetics. It can be triggered by an array of sources including respiratory infections, cold air, airborne substances and pollutants, physical activity, sulfates and preservatives found in some foods and alcohol, and more. There is no cure for asthma, but some factors put individuals at a higher risk. These risks include being overweight or a smoker, having a close relative with asthma, having another allergic condition, exposure to fumes or pollution, and exposure to chemicals such as those found in hairdressing or manufacturing. It is practically impossible to live without coming into contact with any of these factors, so people with asthma might miss school or work, or face hospitalization because of their condition. There are four classifications of asthma ranging from mild to severe. The first is mild intermittent where symptoms show twice a week and two nights a month. Next is mild persistent where there are symptoms more than twice a week but not more than once in a single day. Moderate persistent is classified as symptoms once a day and more than one night out of the week. The final category is severe persistent where symptoms show throughout the day and on most nights. There are oral medications and inhalers that help keep the asthma under control but for those with severe asthma it may not be enough. Thankfully there is another option for them – biologics.


THE STUDY: Biologics target the cells and pathways that cause the allergic inflammation that is linked to asthma. Dr. Khatri says “All these agents, nonbiologics and biologics are designed to address airway inflammation, however biologics do target a certain pathway in the inflammatory response so that it is a more targeted intervention which may be more potent to deliver relief from their type of asthma.”  There are three biologics on the market: omalizumab (Xolair), mepolizumab (Nucala) and reslizumab (Cinqair). They are considered safe for adults and children over the age of 12. People who have severe uncontrolled asthma being treated with biologics receive an IV or injection every two weeks or once a month. Dr. Khatri says the most common side effect of these drugs are “injection site reactions, rashes, headaches may be common. Some can be treated symptomatically ahead of time. Other times side effects could not be well tolerated and the medications may have to be discontinued much like other medications with side effects.”

(Sources:, and Dr. Khatri

HOW TO HELP DURING AN ASTHMA ATTACK: If someone near you has an asthma attack, there are steps you can take to be prepared and do your best to help them. First and foremost you must remember to stay calm; you do not want to stress the person in need more than they already are. If you know what triggered the asthma attack, eliminate it. If you don’t know and the person can’t tell you, keep in mind the common triggers such as smoking, pet dander, pollen, gases, cold weather, and certain foods. Determine if there is an emergency plan and if they have an inhaler or other anti-inflammatory agents. If they are still struggling for breath several minutes after using the inhaler, or have a bluish discoloration on the lips, they may be having a severe asthma attack and should be taken to the hospital immediately.


* For More Information, Contact:

Andrea Pacetti

Senior Manager, Public & Media Relations

Cleveland Clinic