New 'life-changing' drugs should be available to all who need them

Today, Friday 4 January 2019, it was announced that from April 2019, a new drug called benralizumab – part of a group of biologic drugs called monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) could be available to people in England and Wales with a type of asthma called severe eosinophilic asthma.

People diagnosed with severe asthma could be able to access benralizumab if they have had three or four asthma attacks in the past year, or are on continuous oral corticosteroids (OCS), and have a high eosinophil count (a type of white blood cell). Oral corticosteroids are the main treatment for severe asthma but can cause horrible side effects including weight gain, extreme mood swings and osteoporosis, so the new treatments are a welcome alternative.  

Responding to the news, Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK said:

“Benralizumab is one of a group of life-changing drugs which have the power to improve the lives of thousands of people suffering from a type of asthma called severe eosinophilic asthma.

“This debilitating type of asthma often doesn’t respond well to regular asthma treatments, so people are forced to take oral steroid tablets that can cause toxic side effects such as diabetes and osteoporosis. Many still struggle with terrifying and potentially life-threatening asthma symptoms and need repeated trips to hospital.

“We welcome the approval of another biologic drug for asthma patients. This provides more choice and convenience for patients and clinicians. We need to ensure that people with difficult or severe asthma are referred to specialists promptly so they can be considered for these new treatments. More research is needed to see if biological drugs can work well for more people with severe asthma, as there is promising evidence that more patients could benefit in the future.”

-Ends-

For further information, please contact:

Thomas Dearnley-Davison, Senior Social Media & Media Officer, Asthma UK, tdavison@asthma.org.uk, 0207 786 4981.

Out of hours: 07951 721 393

Notes to Editors:

People diagnosed with severe asthma could be able to access benralizumab if they have had three or four asthma attacks in the past year, or are on continuous oral corticosteroids (OCS), and have a high eosinophil count (a type of white blood cell). Oral corticosteroids are the main treatment for severe asthma but can cause horrible side effects including weight gain, extreme mood swings and osteoporosis, so the new treatments are a welcome alternative.

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About Asthma UK:

  • In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Every day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.
  • Every ten seconds someone in the UK has an asthma attack.
  • Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
  • The Asthma UK Helpline is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 0300 222 5800.
  • For more information about asthma please visit www.asthma.org.uk