Adult Asthma Drug Nearly Eliminates Seasonal Attacks in Kids

An asthma drug approved for teens and adults nearly eliminated seasonal increases in asthma attacks and asthma symptoms among children living in inner-city environments, according to research released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Those children who received injections of Xolair had a 75 percent reduction in hospitalizations, according to the study that was published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The drug also lowered the proportion who had serious attacks from 49 percent to 30 percent and it nearly eliminated seasonal increases of allergy and asthma attacks.

Allergy and asthma attacks are more likely in the spring and fall, when they are typically more allergens in the air and respiratory viruses. Controlling allergy attacks can help control asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

"The spike in asthma attacks in the fall, which is associated with colds and other viral airway infections, disappeared in the kids in the omalizumab (Xolair) group," said study author William Busse, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The study followed 419 children in seven US cities for 60 weeks. One group received a placebo and followed traditional guidelines for treating allergies.

The other used Xolair on top of the traditional guidelines.

Xolair works by targeting the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody responsible for allergic reactions. It binds to the IgE and prevents it from releasing certain substances that cause allergic reactions that can lead to constriction of the airways in the lungs. No other allergy drug works in a similar fashion.

The children who responded best to the treatment were those with significant allergies to cockroaches, which is a significant cause of asthma-related illness and hospitalizations among children in the U.S.

Xolair was first approved for use in adults and children over 12 in 2003. Drug makers Novartis and Roche failed to receive FDA approval for its use among children.