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Asthma drug found effective in treating chronic urticaria

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Asthma drug found effective in treating Chronic Urticaria

Researchers have found that a drug used to treat severe asthma, omalizumab, is effective in treating chronic urticaria. This monoclonal antibody was tested on patients with chronic idiopathic urticaria or chronic spontaneous urticaria and it was found that they respond well to omalizumab. The study was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Omalizumab is a humanized monoclonal antibody that was approved in 2003 in the United States for the treatment of severe asthma. It is not known exactly how it works in the treatment of urticaria but it is believed that this drug may act by altering the number of IgE receptors on the surface of immune cells (mast cell and basophils). IgE antibodies are involved in allergic reactions (asthma, allergies to dust, pollen) and omalizumab binds to these circulating IgE in the blood.   Sarbjit (Romi) Saini, M.D., a Johns Hopkins allergist and immunologist, and study co-investigator said that urticaria patients can now opt for a new better treatment. Unlike histamine, omalizumab does not cause sedation which is an advantage over conventional treatment used currently.

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Johns Hopkins researchers did a randomized, double-blind study that took place between 2009 and 2011 on 323 patients ( composed mostly of women) aged between 12 and 75 years. The 323 patients received either placebo or omalizumab in different doses and were monitored for 4 months. Neither the patients nor the doctors knew what kind of drug was administered. It should be noted that in the study there were recruited only patients suffering from chronic urticaria, meaning at least 6 months. Another condition was that the symptoms (rash, itch) to persist for at least two consecutive months despite current treatment with H1-antihistamines. After 12 weeks, 53% of those receiving 300 mg of omalizumab were free of hives, while in the placebo group percentage was only 10%. During the study, there were no severe adverse reactions (anaphylaxis) so as to cause patients to stop treatment. It should be noted that the most common side effect of treatment with omalizumab was headache.

Saini, an Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that patients with chronic urticaria need better option treatment because chronic hives and rashes are difficult to treat and can be very debilitating. He added that the study shows that the new drug not only works but is also safer than other treatments such as corticosteroids and immunosuppressants which have a lot of side effects.