The eczema drug Dupixent may prove to be an effective treatment for severe asthma, but researchers warn that side effects may result in an increase in white blood cells, suggesting that the body is having an allergic reaction to the drug.
An international group of researchers published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine on May 21, which looked at the safety and effectiveness of using Dupixent (dupilumab) in treating glucocorticoid-dependent severe asthma. The study found that using Dupixent lowered patients’ dependence on oral glucocorticoid, but appeared to increase the risk of transient blood eosinophilia; which involves an increase in white blood cells.
Researchers conducted a clinical study involving 210 patients taking oral glucocorticoids for severe asthma, half of whom were treated with a 300 mg dose of Dupixent every two weeks for 24 weeks. The other patients were given a placebo.
According to the findings, the drug lowered the need for steroid use and decreased the rate of severe exacerbations when compared to a placebo. However, 14% of those given Dupixent developed transient blood eosinophilia. This is usually indicative of an allergic reaction, and extended eosinophilia can result in tissue damage and other side effects.
The study also noted that there were more than double the number of injection-site reactions to Dupixent injections than with patients given a placebo.
Researchers said they were not surprised by the findings, as Dupixent is believed to block the migration of eosinophils into tissue.
“The high blood eosinophil counts returned to baseline levels by the end of the dupilumab treatment period,” the researchers noted. “Patients with transient elevations in the blood eosinophil counts did not have concomitant clinical adverse events or consequences. Since glucocorticoids suppress circulating eosinophils, the greater reduction in the oral glucocorticoid dose in the dupilumab group than in the placebo group could also have contributed to the elevations in the eosinophil counts.”