New drug helps treat rare immunologic disease

National Institutes of Health clinical trial tested an alternative treatment for eosinophilic syndrome at 31 research sites in nine countries.
By Amy Wallace   |   May 18, 2017 at 4:35 PM

May 18 (UPI) -- Researchers found that combining a new FDA-approved drug with existing treatment may help treat a rare immunologic disease.

The study by the National Institutes of Health added the injectable drug mepolizumab to the standard treatment for eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyanglitis, or EGPA, a rare immunologic disease.

EGPA, also known as Churg-Strauss Syndrome, increases the number of a type of white blood cell called an eosinophil. EGPA causes severe asthma initially, which later develops into multi-organ damage as eosinophils accumulate in the walls of blood vessels by releasing toxic proteins that cause inflammation and damage to blood vessel walls, restricting blood flow and causing tissue damage.

The standard method of treatment for EGPA is oral steroids taken continuously, but this leads to concerns over long-term steroid use and side effects. Long-term oral steroids are also not always effective in some patients and relapses are common.

So researchers tested the efficacy of adding mepolizumab to steroid treatments for EGPA in 136 patients and found that 28 percent of participants experienced remission of EGPA for at least 24 weeks compared to only 3 percent who received a placebo. The disease remained in remission at weeks 36 and 48 in 32 percent of participants who received mepolizumab.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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