Biologic Medications for AERD (Samter's Triad)
This area of research has seen an explosion of activity in the past several years. Biologic drugs are administered by injection, usually once every 2 to 8 weeks. Biologic medications are designed to inhibit specific components of the immune system that play crucial roles in fueling inflammation.
Aspirin Exacerbated Respiratory Disease is difficult to control with conventional treatments. These new biologic drugs offer hope to AERD (Samter's Triad) patients who haven't found relief from other medications. Most of these medications are currently only approved by the FDA for the treatment of severe asthma, but Dupixent (dupilumab) has been approved for the treatment of nasal polyps. Biologic medications can be difficult to get approved for. Your blood work may need to demonstrate that you meet certain criteria (such as high enough eosinophil levels). In addition to this, biologic medications are expensive. If you are approved for one of these medications and need help paying for it, many of the drug manufacturers do have prescription assistance plans.
The most commonly prescribed biologics for AERD are discussed in detail below, but numerous others are in development. It is expected that several new medications of this class will be available within the next few years.
Omalizumab (Xolair) works by blocking IgE (immunoglobulin E), a substance made by the body that plays a key role in the allergic response. Xolair is approved by the FDA for the treatment of inadequately controlled moderate-to-severe asthma. One study found that Xolair may also be helpful in the treatment of nasal polyps. There is even some limited research and case reports which suggest that Xolair may reduce or eliminate reactions to aspirin and NSAIDs in some AERD (Samter's Triad) patients, but more research in this area is needed. Xolair has also been found to reduce or eliminate respiratory reactions during aspirin desensitization.
Research on Omalizumab (Xolair)
Mepolizumab is an anti-interleukin-5 monoclonal antibody. Nucala is approved by the FDA for the treatment of severe asthma in patients 12 years or older and with an eosinophilic phenotype. Nucala is recommended for those with asthma that is not able to be controlled with inhaled steroid medications. A recent study found that Nucala reduced the need for sinus surgery in patients with severe nasal polyps. Research done at Brigham & Women's found that Nucala reduced sinus symptoms, including anosmia and congestion, in AERD patients. A 2017 study found that serious adverse reactions to Nucala are rare. Of 1,300 patients taking Nucala for severe eosinophilic asthma, only 2 serious adverse events were reported (asthma exacerbations). Nucala is taken every 4 weeks.
Research on Mepolizumab (Nucala)
Reslizumab (Cinqair) is another anti-interleukin-5 antibody. Cinqair has been shown to reduce the number of asthma exacerbations and improve lung function in patients with eosinophilic asthma. The FDA has approved reslizumab (Cinqair) for patients aged 18 years and older who have a history of severe asthma attacks despite other treatments. Again, there is research suggesting that Cinqair may be helpful in the treatment of nasal polyps. Cinqair is taken every 4 weeks.
Research on Reslizumab (Cinqair)
Fasenra (benralizumab) is approved in the US for the treatment of severe eosinophilic asthma. Like Nucala and Cinqair, it is an anti-IL5 antibody. It hasn't been studied in AERD patients specifically, but it has been shown to be effective for the type of asthma that AERD patients suffer from. It is currently being studied for nasal polyps. Fasenra has been shown to rapidly deplete eosinophil levels, reduce oral steroid use, and reduce the occurrence of severe asthma attacks. Fasenra is the only biologic medication currently available for asthma that has an 8 week dosing schedule, which may make it more convenient for patients.
Research on Benralizumab (Fasenra)
Dupixent is approved for the treatment of moderate to severe asthma and also for nasal polyps. Dupixent is an IL-4 and IL-13 monoclonal antibody. This medication has also shown promising results for the treatment of nasal polyps and has even been shown to improve smell function. Dupilumab is approved for home administration after proper training.
Research on Dupilumab (Dupixent)
Risks of Biologic Medications
The most common side effect seen with biologics is pain and rash at the injection site. Biologic therapy may pose some increased risk of infections and other diseases. While taking biologic medications patients should not receive live vaccines.
There is a small risk of anaphylaxis with administration of biologic medications. In regard to Xolair, it has been reported that this risk is greater in patients with a prior history of anaphylaxis (unrelated to omalizumab use). Such reactions were observed most often during the first 3 doses, but can occur at any point during treatment. It is recommended that patients be observed when first administered Xolair, and also that they receive self-injectable epinephrine (EpiPen) for use if needed.
An expert panel discusses the use of biologic medications in asthma and how these treatments will be used to treat sinus disease in the near future.
Dr. Joseph Han discusses the recent positive phase III results on the treatment of nasal polyps with Dupixent (dupilumab).
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