Asthma Drug Successfully Treats Severe Hives and Itch

Published Online: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Injections of an asthma drug may be an effective and safe treatment option for patients with chronic hives and severe rash, according to the results of a study published in the March 7, 2013, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The authors of the study evaluated the efficacy of the asthma drug omalizumab in treating chronic idiopathic urticaria in patients whose symptoms remained after antihistamine therapy. The researchers randomly assigned 323 patients to receive 3 injections, each spaced 4 weeks apart, of placebo or omalizumab at doses of 75 mg, 150 mg, or 300 mg. The researchers then observed the participants for 16 weeks.

The authors observed quick relief from symptoms among those receiving omalizumab beginning 1 week after the first injection. After 3 months, 53% of those receiving 300-mg doses of omalizumab had been treated completely and 44% had no new incidents of hives and itch. Lower doses were only half as effective as the next-higher dose. Headache was the most severe side effect.

The authors are not sure why omalizumab effectively treats chronic hives and conclude that more research should be done to understand the drug’s effect.

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