Schoolyard puffers might be thing of the past, if major pharmaceutical companies have their way. The race towards developing injectable asthma medication is one with manifold rewards at the end of the rainbow, with patients battling more serious iterations of the condition thought to experience a 40 to 60 reduction in severe asthma attacks, known as exacerbations. The burgeoning industry is estimated to grow to around $7.5 billion in value as viable drugs are released.
GlaxoSmithKline, pioneers of the Ventolin inhaler that's been the boss of asthma treatments since 1969, again looks to be the frontrunner, though other pharmaceutical giants aren't going down without a fight. AstraZeneca, Roche, Sanofi, and Teva are all in the process of fine-tuning injectable asthma drugs, with the life-saving potential of the treatment likely to be a key advancement in asthma science. Around 20 percent of asthma sufferers on standard treatments - including steroid inhalers and long-acting beta agonists - struggle to manage their condition, with those suffering from a severe form of asthma placing the heaviest burden on the asthma care system.
The injectable treatment doesn't simply differ in mode of delivery, but in mode of attack as well. While existing methods essential force closed airways open to allow easy breathing, the injected medication targets the inflammatory chemicals present in the body that spark asthma. "I'm very optimistic about the new drugs," said Elisabeth Bel, president-elect of the European Respiratory Society and head of respiratory medicine at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam. "We have participated in several trials with the new biological agents and have seen some amazing results." Crucially, the drugs will also look at biomarkers to test efficacy, enabling medical practitioners to identify whether or not the drug will work prior to an asthma attack hitting.
However, some reservations around the biotech medication persist - namely the cost. Mepolizumab, the drug developed by GlaxoSmithKline, is estimated to run at around $15,000, according to experts to Barclays. However, analysts from Leerink are estimating a slight drop, putting the anticipated price around $10,000 due to increased competition from other pharmaceutical companies. The high price is thought to come as a result of fewer hospitalizations, with less frequent hospital visits pushing up the demand - and subsequently cost - for the drugs.