Breakthrough Therapy Promises Eczema Relief
- Posted on: Jul 6 2017
As anyone who suffers from eczema – or treats it – will tell you, the chronic skin condition can be frustrating for patients and their doctors, often causing lifelong, sometimes unbearable symptoms, with few treatment options available for those who struggle with moderate to severe disease.
But a new biologic drug, called Dupixent (dupilumab), could change all that by addressing a more specific way to treat eczema. Biologic pharmaceutical medications have played a starring role in the treatment of immune-related diseases in recent years. They work by targeting specific pathways in the immune system that fuel inflammation.
NDDA’s Dr. Melissa Costner serves on the medical advisory board for Dupixent and answers our questions about this breakthrough new therapy . . .
Can you describe what patients with eczema experience?
Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a chronic skin condition, which causes extremely itchy, red, scaly skin. Over time, recurrent rash can lead to tough and thickened skin. Although, many cases are mild and involve only small patches of skin and improve with moisturizer and prescription steroid creams, many children and adults have more widespread, difficult-to-control atopic dermatitis and remain inadequately treated. The unsightly rash and disabling itch in these patients can cause significant physical discomfort, reduced quality of life, sleep disturbance and even depression.
What happens in the body to cause eczema?
Several observations suggest that atopic dermatitis is the skin manifestation of a systemic disorder that also gives rise to asthma, allergic rhinitis and even food allergies. These conditions are all characterized by abnormal blood tests, namely elevated serum IgE levels and increased eosinophil counts, both systemic markers of allergic inflammation. Interestingly, in experimental models, the topical application of skin allergens has been found to not only produce skin inflammation and irritation, but also elevated systemic markers of allergy and hyperactive airways.
Why is this new drug such a promising therapy?
With the idea in mind that atopic dermatitis that does not respond fully to topical steroids is a systemic disease, investigators have developed a new medication that does not have the unacceptable side effect profile of oral steroids or systemic immunosuppressive medications that are currently available. The medication, dupilumab, has been designated by the US Food and Drug Administration as a “breakthrough therapy” which is designed to speed promising new drugs to market.
How does it work?
Dupilumab is an injection given every other week at home. It is a monoclonal antibody, a targeted immune system drug that inactivates two specific compounds called interleukin 4 and 13, which are involved in the signaling of inflammatory cells that wreak havoc in the skin and airways of patients with atopic dermatitis and asthma. It appears to have relatively few side effects, namely exacerbation of allergic conjunctivitis and injection site reactions.
Dr. Melissa Costner
Dr. Costner, an expert in immunologic disease in the skin, serves on the medical advisory board for Dupulimab and has experience treating many patients with this novel therapy. Please call our office for an appointment if you think you might have moderate to severe atopic dermatitis and would like to be evaluated to find out whether dupilumab is the right drug for you.
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