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Investigational agents for asthma

Richard J Martin, MD
Section Editors
Bruce S Bochner, MD
Robert A Wood, MD
Deputy Editor
Helen Hollingsworth, MD


The standard treatment of patients with asthma is based upon trigger avoidance, bronchodilation, and anti-inflammatory therapy. Beta agonists, inhaled and systemic glucocorticoids, leukotriene modifiers, omalizumab, and, to a lesser extent, methylxanthines and anticholinergics all have a role in the conventional treatment of asthma. However, some patients do not achieve adequate control of their asthma with conventional therapy or experience adverse effects with conventional agents. Ongoing research is attempting to identify more effective and less toxic agents to control asthma.

Investigational approaches to asthma management, both promising and unsuccessful, will be reviewed here. Standard treatment regimens for asthma and complementary, alternative, and integrative approaches are discussed separately. (See "An overview of asthma management" and "Complementary, alternative, and integrative therapies for asthma".)


Several biologic agents targeting steps in the cascade of cytokines implicated in asthma inflammation have been developed in hopes of ameliorating the inflammation that underlies chronic asthma. A novel glucocorticoid receptor agonist approaches immunomodulation in a different way, by activating the glucocorticoid receptor, but possibly without the usual adverse effects of traditional glucocorticoids. (See "Pathogenesis of asthma", section on 'Airway inflammation'.)

Anti-IgE agents — Immunoglobulin E (IgE) plays a central role in the mechanism of immediate bronchoconstriction and the influx of inflammatory cells in allergic asthma.

Omalizumab, a recombinant humanized monoclonal anti-IgE antibody, is approved for use in asthma and is discussed separately. (See "Anti-IgE therapy".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 14, 2017.
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