Asthma drug relieves chronic hives

July 22, 2014

The asthma drug omalizumab may provide symptom relief to patients with chronic idiopathic urticaria, results of a recently published study suggest.

The asthma drug omalizumab may provide symptom relief to patients with chronic idiopathic urticaria, results of a recently published study suggest.

In the 40-week double-blind study, Sarbjit S. Saini, M.D., of Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center, Baltimore, and colleagues randomized 319 patients with chronic idiopathic urticaria (ages 12 to 75) to four groups for a monthly injection of either 75 mg, 150 mg, 300 mg omalizumab (Xolair, Genentech) or placebo. Injections were administered every four weeks for 24 weeks, after which patients were followed up for 16 weeks; 262  patients (82 percent)completed the study. The primary endpoint was change in itch severity score from baseline at week 12.

Researchers found that patients who received omalizumab experienced a noticeable reduction in number of hives, their intensity and severity of itching compared with placebo. The majority (80 percent) of omalizumab-treated patients experienced some improvement and approaching half (~40 percent) of patients experienced total elimination of all symptoms through six months’ follow-up. Patients treated with 300 mg omalizumab experienced the most improvement.

Adverse events included mild-to-moderate headaches, joint pain, sinus infection and injection site reactions. Serious adverse events were minimal.

This study is the latest in a series of ongoing studies to evaluate how omalizumab performs in this patient population over longer periods of time. The studies are funded by Genentech and Novartis.

Omalizumab was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in March 2014 to treat chronic idiopathic urticaria in patients who remain symptomatic despite treatment with H1-antihistamine therapy.

The findings were published online July 24 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.