The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is launching a study that aims to determine whether treatment with Novartis’ asthma drug Xolair could be better targeted towards those patients most likely to benefit from it. 

Currently, around a 250,000 patients with asthma in the UK are unable to get good control of their condition, resulting in frequent, severe, or even life-threatening attacks.

Xolair (omalizumab) is already approved for people who do not respond to taking steroid treatment with long-acting reliever medication, but knowing which patients would respond to the drug could not only save lives but also save the NHS much-needed resources.

The study, being run by the NIHR Translational Research Partnership, hopes to enable researchers to identify which biomarkers are changed by the treatment, which should make it possible to quickly identify those most likely to benefit.

“Severe asthma has a huge impact on people’s lives, so by targeting treatments more effectively it will not only support patients but make better use of NHS resources,” said life sciences Minister George Freeman. 

“It is great news that Novartis has teamed up with the NIHR’s expert researchers to ensure that the right treatment is given to the right patient at the right time.”

US expansion?

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Roche group Genentech has filed a supplemental license application seeking to expand the use of Xolair in younger patients.

The company is asking for permission to market the drug in children from six through 11 years for the treatment of moderate to severe persistent asthma in those patients with a positive skin test or in vitro reactivity to a perennial aeroallergen and symptoms inadequately controlled with inhaled corticosteroids. 

“Childhood allergic asthma often remains uncontrolled despite the use of inhaled steroids,” said Sandra Horning, chief medical officer and head of Global Product Development. “The disease can significantly impact a child, and this filing acceptance brings us one step closer to addressing this significant unmet need.”