The first asthma drug in 20 years designed to reduce the severity of the condition has been hailed as a "game-changer" by experts in the United Kingdom.

Researchers from the University of Leicester discovered that the new drug called Fevipiprant can lessen the symptoms — such as inflammation — in patients.

The new pill offers "massive" hope for the more than 5 million asthma sufferers in the country, experts say.

"This new drug could be a game changer for future treatment of asthma," says Chris Brightling, lead author of a new study on Fevipiprant and university professor.

Controlling Asthma

Asthma is a long-term condition that affects the airways in the lungs and inflicts wheezing, cough or breathlessness.

Most people use inhalers to help control their asthma, but some people still have persistent symptoms.

What's more, flare-ups can be fatally dangerous. In fact, statistics from Asthma UK show that approximately 1,216 people have died from the condition in 2014.

In a new study, experts from the University of Leicester looked at 61 individuals who had suffered from severe asthma despite using steroid inhalers and receiving regular checkups from specialists.

About half of the participants received 225mg of Fevipiprant twice a day for 12 weeks, while the remaining participants took a placebo.

Fevipiprant and the placebo were added to the medications that the patients were already taking.

In the end, scientists found that Fevipiprant strongly decreased the symptoms of asthma, reduced inflammation, improved lung function and healed the lining of airways.

Gaye Stokes has had severe asthma for 16 years and received Fevipiprant during the small-scale trial. She says she felt like a "completely different person" after taking it.

"[I] was less wheezy," says Stokes, now age 54. "And for the first time in years, I felt really, really well."

Stokes added that once she stopped receiving the drug after the 12-week trial, her asthma quickly deteriorated once again.

Hope For Future Treatments

With that, researchers explained that the drug is still part of an early proof-of-concept study. Large-scale and long-term clinical trials will be conducted to see if Fevipiprant can help patients get by their everyday life.

Still, Samantha Walker of Asthma UK believes the new drug is promising and should be greeted with "cautious optimism."

Walker says the likelihood of taking an asthma pill instead of an inhaler will be welcomed, especially because the study focused on patients who developed the condition later in life. Some of these patients struggle with the dexterity required in using an inhaler, she says.

Meanwhile, Professor Brightling says the new drug could help stop preventable asthma attacks, lower hospital admission rates and improve everyday symptoms.

Details of the new study are published in the journal The Lancet.

Photo: Ben Dalton | Flickr

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