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Keywords:

  • anti-immunoglobulin E;
  • emergency room visits;
  • exacerbations;
  • omalizumab;
  • severe persistent asthma

Background:  Patients with severe persistent asthma who are inadequately controlled despite treatment according to current asthma management guidelines have a significant unmet medical need. Such patients are at high risk of serious exacerbations and asthma-related mortality.

Methods:  Here, we pooled data from seven studies to determine the effect of omalizumab, an anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) monoclonal antibody, on asthma exacerbations in patients with severe persistent asthma. Omalizumab was added to current asthma therapy and compared with placebo (in five double-blind studies) or with current asthma therapy alone (in two open-label studies). The studies included 4308 patients (2511 treated with omalizumab), 93% of whom had severe persistent asthma according to the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) 2002 classification. Using the Poisson regression model, results were calculated as the ratio of treatment effect (omalizumab : control) on the standardized exacerbation rate per year.

Results:  Omalizumab significantly reduced the rate of asthma exacerbations by 38% (P < 0.0001 vs control) and the rate of total emergency visits by 47% (P < 0.0001 vs control). Analysis of demographic subgroups showed that the efficacy of omalizumab on asthma exacerbations was unaffected by patient age, gender, baseline serum IgE (split by median) or by 2- or 4-weekly dosing schedule, although benefit in absolute terms appeared to be greatest in patients with more severe asthma, defined by a lower value of percentage predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) at baseline.

Conclusions:  These results suggest that omalizumab may fulfil an important need in patients with severe persistent asthma, many of whom are not adequately controlled on current therapy.