Severe asthma suffers may have some new help on the way. Asthma is a disease which can vary from mild to wild. What causes this variation in the clinical picture is most likely related to the genetic mix of the patient. I recently read that asthma may be associated with as many as 30 or more genes.

Consider the combinations for any given patient. Some of our asthma patients need very little medication to control their symptoms, while others need everything we have. Standard asthma therapy should include an inhaled corticosteroid, which is often combined with a bronchodilator. When this conventional therapy does not control symptoms other therapies need to be used.

The Pulmonary-Allergy Advisory Committee of the FDA has recommended that a new drug, called mepolizumab, be approved for the treatment of asthma in adults. If approved, this drug will be the first of its kind on the market for the treatment of asthma patients not well controlled on conventional therapy. Mepolizumab works in a unique way to control the production of cells, called eosinophils, which participate in the inflammatory reactions in asthma.

This drug will be given as an injection every four weeks. It will take some time for approval and physicians, like myself, will need to become familiar with the indications, risks and side effects of the new therapy. The clinical trials suggest this drug may be helpful in selected patients, but it will take some time in general use before we know for sure.