GlaxoSmithKline drug halves attacks in hard-to-treat asthma

Based on study results thus far, the United Kingdom’s biggest pharma hopes to stake an even bigger claim than it already possesses in respiratory medicine, and it plans to move its experimental new asthma drug into final Phase III development before the end of this year

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LONDON—In its recent Phase IIb DREAM study, GlaxoSmithKline'ssevere asthma drug mepolizumab—an injectable antibody treatment—reportedly reducedasthma attacks suffered by patients with a hard-to-treat form of the disease bynearly half. This has prompted GSK to profess to media sources and investorsthat is plans to move the new drug into final Phase III development before theend of 2012.
The DREAMstudy (not to be confused with the DREAM Project recently reported on by ddn) tested mepolizumab in patients with severe eosinophilicasthma—in this form of asthma, the patient's organs are damaged by a surplus ofwhite blood cells. The yearlong study involved 621 patients and indicated thatthe number of "clinically significant exacerbations" in patients mepolizumab thatwould normally require the used of oral corticosteroids or a hospital visit occurredat about half the rate of those patients taking placebo.
A major selling point of GSK's new monoclonal antibody-based drug, which targetsinterleukin-5, is that it is taken just once a month.
GSK may be hoping that the can offset some of thefinancial pain to come when the company loses patent protection for its asthmaand chronic obstructive pulmonary disease drug Seretide/Advair. This hope, andthe good study results, may explain why the drug is getting some attention bythe company now despite being in Phase II trials since the late 1990s—in partbecause such a small number of asthmatics suffer from this severe form of thedisease; reportedly, about 4 percent. 

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