The September issue of the New England Journal of Medicine discussed research on the newest medicine for asthma, Lebrikizumab. This drug is an IgG4 humanized monoclonal antibody that binds to interleukin-13 (I-13).
I-13 is a cytokine (cell communicator) that plays a big role in causing the inflammation of asthma. It does this in part by causing airway cells to produce periostin, which causes narrowing and thickening of the airways.
Inhaled steroids are supposed to inhibit I-13, but they don’t always accomplish the task. In a study of 219 moderate and severe asthmatics there was dramatic improvement in lung function (measured by breathing tests). Of special note, this improvement was almost immediate with starting the medicine.
The people who improved the most were the ones with the highest periostin levels.
Lebrikizumab is still undergoing clinical trials but hopefully, will soon be approved by the FDA. If the FDA gives a thumbs up, let’s cross our finger they’ll mandate a simpler name for the drug!