Wed Aug 29, 12:04 PM ET
New guidelines unveiled by U.S. federal health experts on Wednesday for tackling asthma carve out a new age group, children 5 to 11, for unique treatment.
Drugs known as inhaled corticosteroids remain the best long-term treatment to control asthma in all age groups, according to experts convened by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.
The new guidelines -- the first thorough update in 10 years of U.S. recommendations on treating and diagnosing asthma -- gave special attention to the growing problem of childhood asthma. They also offered new advice on drugs and controlling environmental factors that may trigger symptoms.
Existing guidelines had called for children 5 to 11 to treated the same as adults.
The guidelines now specify three age groups to get different treatment for asthma: birth to 4 years, 5 to 11 and 12 and older.
The middle group was created due to new evidence on drugs for these children and emerging signs that they may respond differently to asthma medications than adults.
The recommendations point to newer drugs to help control the immune over-reaction seen in severe allergic asthma. Xolair, made by Genentech and Novartis, is a biotech drug that blocks the immune system compound immunoglobulin E, which is overproduced during an allergic asthma attack.
Known generically as omalizumab, Xolair is injected and approved only for people over the age of 12 with severe asthma.
Other drugs should be added only as needed and should be discontinued as soon as possible, the guidelines say.
"Although asthma is a common, chronic illness that can pose a serious burden for patients, their families and their communities, we firmly believe that asthma control can be achieved in nearly every patient with asthma," said Dr. William Busse, chairman of the University of Wisconsin Department of Medicine.
Busse, who headed the panel of 18 experts, said many studies supported the recommendations.
"For instance, inhaled corticosteroids are still the best long-term control treatment for asthma patients of all ages because we have even stronger evidence that they are generally safe and are the most effective medication at reducing inflammation, a key component of asthma," he told reporters in a telephone briefing.
Asthma is an inflammation of the airways. Symptoms can include wheezing, shortness or breath, coughing and chest tightness. More than 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma -- 22 million in the United States alone.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says asthma kills about 3,780 annually.
Inhaled corticosteroids include GlaxoSmithKline's Flovent and Advair, AstraZeneca's Pulmicort, Abbott's Azmacort, Teva Pharmaceuticals' Qvar and Schering-Plough's Asmanex.
Heck. I'm all for preventing deaths by using steroids and other medicine. Man, almost 3800 people die each year. My question always seems to be the same. Today or the future? What shall we invest in?
If it's special education in schools, we all know school districts have a difficult time with long term planning and investing, which over time costs less time and money. It's the same when it comes to wellness in this country.
Will there be a day when the government realizes that all of these ailments - childhood disorders/delays, allergies/asthma, neurological disorders like MS, and cancer are all related? That they all involve toxins and the effects of a centralized food supply for starters? We will soon be buying nuts that are pasteurized (those lucky enough to be able to still eat them).
Why don't we spend our tax money on causative factors rather than concentrating on blocking symptoms? At record profits I may add, to certain pharma cos. The payoff would be exponential, impacting so many aspects of health.