Biologics: New hope for people with severe asthma

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About 25 million Americans suffer from asthma. For people with severe forms of the disease, every single breath can be a struggle. Now, there's new hope for these patients. (WLS)

About 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For people with severe forms of the disease, every single breath can be a struggle. Now, there's new hope for these patients.

A year ago, Lynn Kocka never dreamed she'd be able to exercise like this. Her severe asthma made just about every activity a challenge.

"I would take a few feet running, and I would be like (cough, cough), so I couldn't do it so much," Kocka said.

Kocka tried inhalers and oral meds, but nothing eased her symptoms.

"I could never understand quite why I couldn't get rid of all of this congestion," Kocka said.

Then her doctors at the Cleveland Clinic suggested she try something new: a class of medicines called biologics.

"For patients with severe asthma who have been suffering for years, this is now the time where we are seeing some hope," said Sumita Khatri, MD, co-director of the Asthma Center at the Cleveland Clinic.

Standard treatments for asthma only address inflammation in the body. Biologics target specific pathways that trigger symptoms. For instance, they can zero-in on an antibody that's known to cause an allergic response in people with allergic asthma.

"If we can figure out which pathway is particularly causing the most problems, then we can try to target that," Khatri said.

There are currently three biologics on the market, but many more are in development. In clinical trials, these drugs lowered asthma flare-ups - some by about 50 percent, lowered the rate of hospital and emergency room visits and reduced the need for steroid drugs.

Kocka receives an injection of a biologic every four weeks. She said she noticed improvement right away.

"Within three days, it was phenomenal!" Kocka said.

Now she can do anything and go anywhere, without her asthma holding her back.

"You get your life back, totally, 100 percent," Kocka said.

Candidates for biologic treatment are patients with severe forms of asthma that haven't been helped with standard treatments.

If you would like more information, check out the medical breakthroughs on the web at www.ivanhoe.com.

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