Asthma drug calms chronic hives, rashes

March 03, 2013|By Andrea K. Walker

Sufferers of chronic hives and rashes could benefit from a commonly-used asthma drug, Johns Hopkins researchers have found.

Scientists found that a once-a-month dose of the drug omalizumab helped ease symptoms that standard antihistamines didn't.

The drug was tested on 323 peple at 55 medical centers from 2009 to 2011. The subjects were mostly women and between the ages of 12 and 75. The participants had suffered with chronic hives and rash for at least six months and many had dealt with the condition for more than five years.

“Patients suffering with this condition need more and better treatment options because chronic hives and rash are profoundly hard to treat and can be very debilitating,” said Dr. Sarbjit (Romi) Saini, a Johns Hopkins allergist and immunologist and study co-investigator.

Headache was the most severe side effect the subjects experienced when using omalizumab.

About 3 million Americans suffer from chronic hives and rashes that can lead to social isolation and severe swelling that makes it hard to breathe.

Saini next plans further studies to determine why omalizumab helps with the conditions.

Saini is a paid consultant to the drug's marketer, Genentech, and the drug's manufacturer, Novartis. The companies funded the study, which was published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

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