An experimental pill may help adults with severe asthma, Britain’s Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal reports.
In the small trial, patients given Fevipiprant had less inflammation in their airways. Some patients with uncontrolled asthma felt their symptoms improved.
Asthma affects airways in the lungs and can cause a cough, wheezing and breathlessness. Most people can control it with treatment such as inhalers but some have more persistent symptoms.
New Zealand has one of the world’s highest rates of asthma, and Australia is not far behind.
The NZ Respiratory Foundation says one in seven Kiwi children have asthma, and one in nine adults, and the condition costs the country more than $NZ800 million a year. Maori, Pacific peoples and low-income families are three times more likely to be hospitalised with asthma.
One in 10 Australians has asthma. The rate among Indigenous Australians is almost twice as high as non-Indigenous Australians.
In this study, University of Leicester scientists looked at 60 patients who had severe asthma despite using steroid inhalers and being seen regularly by specialists.
Researchers found that while patients took Fevipiprant, they had fewer inflammatory blood cells in their phlegm and airways – key signs of the condition.
Gaye Stokes, 54, who has had severe asthma for 16 years, said: “I knew straight away that I had been given the drug. I felt like a completely different person. I had more get up and go, I was less wheezy and for the first time in years, I felt really, really well.”
When she stopped taking the drug, her asthma deteriorated again.
Researchers stress this is still an early study and larger, long-term trials will be needed to see if the pill can help patients in everyday life.
Dr Samantha Walker of Asthma UK said: “This research shows massive promise and should be greeted with cautious optimism.
“The possibility of taking a pill instead of using an inhaler will be a very welcome one, particularly as this study focused on people who develop the condition in later life, some of whom we know can struggle with the dexterity required to use an inhaler.
“More research is needed and we’re a long way off seeing a pill for asthma being made available over the pharmacy counter, but it’s an exciting development.”