Self-administration option available for severe asthma subtype

Monday, 01 June, 2020

Self-administration option available for severe asthma subtype

A new pre-filled pen (autoinjector) that allows patients with severe eosinophilic asthma to self-administer their medication will be reimbursed by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from today, 1 June 2020.

More than 2.4 million Australians are affected by asthma and it is estimated that up to 5–10% have severe asthma — of which about 30% suffer from severe eosinophilic asthma. These patients are now able to choose where they receive treatment — at home or via a healthcare professional.

The autoinjector is a disposable, spring-loaded medical device designed to deliver a specific dose of mepolizumab (NUCALA) for at-home administration. The device will be an important option for those with severe eosinophilic asthma who may be unable to travel or attend a clinic to receive monthly treatment.

Severe eosinophilic asthma is a subtype of severe asthma where there are too many eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) in the blood and lungs, causing inflammation and an increased risk of asthma flare-ups.

The treatment works by reducing the number of eosinophils and is given in addition to a patient’s regular preventer and symptom-controller medications. NUCALA is therefore an add-on treatment, for severe eosinophilic asthma patients aged 12 years and over, to help reduce the frequency of their asthma flare-ups and dose of oral steroids.

Patients with severe eosinophilic asthma experience debilitating symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and frequent, life-threatening attacks.

Professor Peter Gibson, respiratory physician and clinical researcher at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), said affordable access to new self-administration options for severe eosinophilic asthma is a timely and positive development.

“Ensuring effective, more convenient treatment options for severe eosinophilic asthma is an important step in reducing the burden of this disease for patients, their families and the healthcare system,” Professor Gibson said.

“The option for at-home administration is especially significant at this time when Australians are self-isolating, spending more time at home and may be unable or prefer not to visit their healthcare professional.

“Healthcare professionals should look forward to facilitating greater continuity of treatment and helping to protect patients who would prefer to receive their regular treatment at home.”

Dr Andrew Weekes, Medical Director at GSK Australia, said the PBS listing is an important milestone for patients with severe eosinophilic asthma, enabling them to exercise more flexibility around how they receive their biologic treatment.

“GSK is pleased that Australians with severe eosinophilic asthma can now access a self-administration option for NUCALA via the PBS. The availability of the pre-filled pen will give patients greater choice around how they receive their biologic treatment and consider the setting that best fits their needs, in consultation with their healthcare professional,” Dr Weekes said.

“This latest development is a natural progression for patients with severe eosinophilic asthma in taking greater control of their treatment, just as patients do with other chronic conditions such as diabetes.”

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