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Eczema drug shows promise in clinical trials

Dupilumab reduced the severe itching, skin lesions that are hallmarks of atopic eczema − a chronic, and sometimes disabling, skin condition
(Getty Images)

A drug that works by targeting and blocking some of the body’s chemical messengers, which can become overactive in allergic reactions, shows promise in reducing symptoms caused by a severe form of eczema.

A study, based on results from an international Phase III clinical trial led by OHSU in Portland, Oregon, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that dupilumab alleviated the skin lesions and intense itching that were previously untreatable by standard medications and often impacted large areas of a trial participant’s body. In turn, the drug also reduced the sleep deprivation, depression and anxiety participants suffered because of the severity of symptoms.

“We now have a promising new option for patients whose quality of life was severely diminished by their disease,” said Eric Simpson, M.D., M.C.R., lead author on the study and professor of dermatology in the OHSU School of Medicine. “Additional clinical trials are needed to explore whether long-term use of dupilumab is safe, but it represents a potential new approach for our patients who have suffered without good options for far too long.”

For people with moderate-to-severe atopic eczema, existing topical therapies provide limited benefit and systemic treatments, such as steroids, are associated with substantial toxic effects and often, as a result, can’t be used for long periods of time. “There is a large unmet need for effective long-term medications for these patients,” Simpson added.

Dupilumab is a manufactured antibody provided in the form of an injectable drug that blocks abnormal immune system responses that drive diseases such as atopic eczema, atopic dermatitis, asthma and chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps. Larger trials of longer duration are needed to assess the effectiveness and safety of long-term treatment with dupilumab, and these studies are underway.

Dupilumab is currently under clinical development and its safety and efficacy have not been fully evaluated by any regulatory authority. The drug’s makers, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Sanofi, announced in late September 2016 that the Food and Drug Administration will conduct a priority review of the treatment for adults. The Phase III trials were fully funded by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

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