Drug manufacturers are in a race to create a new injectable biotech asthma treatment for patients with severe cases of the condition and those who do not respond well to inhalers.
GlaxoSmithKline (the "leader in asthma treatment") is predicted to be the frontrunner, but faces serious competition from manufacturers such as "Roche , AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Teva," Reuters reported.
About 20 percent of today's asthma patients do not respond well to current treatments such as inhaled steroids which work to open airways. This new type of therapy would target the inflammatory chemicals inside the body that fuel the condition.
"I'm very optimistic about the new drugs," Elisabeth Bel, president-elect of the European Respiratory Society and head of respiratory medicine at the Academic Medical Centre, told Reuters. "We have participated in several trials with the new biological agents and have seen some amazing results."
These injectable drugs have proven to be successful in preventing between 40 and 60 percent of serious asthma attacks.
Before being prescribed the drugs patients would undergo a "biomarker blood test" that would determine if they would respond well to the treatment. This would save both caregivers and patients time and money.
"Severe asthma patients represent the majority of the (asthma) burden on healthcare systems and budgets," Bahija Jallal, head of AstraZeneca's MedImmune biotech unit, told Reuters. "We will be working to convince payers this is something that brings value."
While the drug will most likely lower severe asthma attacks leading to drop in hospital costs, some argue this will allow drug companies to charge high prices for the treatments.
Deciding which patients receive which drugs may also be a challenge. There are five known sub-types of the disease based on what biological pathways are linked to the condition.
"There will be some overlap where some patients could be effectively treated with one or more drug, but there are likely to be others who are only effectively treated with one type. It's still early days to sort through all of that," Steve Yancy, GSK's development leader for mepolizumab, told Reuters.