Article

Current Allergy and Asthma Reports

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 164-173

Novel drugs for treating asthma

  • Trevor T. HanselAffiliated withNational Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) Clinical Studies Unit, Royal Brompton Hospital
  • , Peter J. BarnesAffiliated withDepartment of Thoracic Medicine, NHLI, Imperial College

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Abstract

The health burden of asthma is increasing globally at an alarming rate, providing a strong impetus for the development of new therapeutics, particularly drugs that may prevent development of the disease. Currently available inhaled bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory drugs are effective in most asthmatic patients, but this palliative therapy requires long-term daily administration. Despite considerable efforts by the pharmaceutical industry, it has been difficult to develop novel therapeutic agents, the leukotriene antagonists being the only new class of asthma treatments to be licensed in the past 30 years. It is clearly important to understand more about the underlying mechanisms of asthma and about how currently used drugs work before rational improvements in therapy can be expected. There are numerous therapies in clinical development that combat the inflammation found in asthma, specifically targeting eosinophils, IgE, adhesion molecules, cytokines (interleukin-4, -5, -13) and chemokines, inflammatory mediators, and cell signaling (kinase inhibitors). In particular, there is the obvious need for new therapy for severe asthma that is poorly controlled by high-dose corticosteroids as well as agents to counter acute emergency asthma. A long-term goal is to develop disease-modifying immunotherapy that could be introduced in childhood to alter the natural history of asthma. Thanks to the extensive efforts of the pharmaceutical industry, we can expect the introduction of a range of novel therapies for asthma in the near future.