XOLAIR (omalizumab) is an asthma medication that has been demonstrated to decrease the frequency of asthma attacks in moderate to severe asthmatics, and to reduce or eliminate the need for other asthma medications. XOLAIR is not used to treat other types of allergies.
It works to lessen asthma symptoms by decreasing the amount of an immunoglobulin known as IgE in the blood, and by decreasing the number of mast cells and basophils. All three of these substances are parts of the immune system, meant to destroy pathogens, but all can malfunction, causing dangerous inflammatory reactions. By decreasing these levels, XOLAIR decreases inflammation and hyper-reponsiveness of the airways, two causes of severe asthma.
Candidates for XOLAIR
Asthma patients may be good candidates for XOLAIR if they are known to produce too much IgE that may exacerbate symptoms of allergic asthma such as wheezing, chest tightness, chronic cough, and shortness of breath. Other good candidates for XOLAIR may be patients who have:
- Persistent moderate or severe asthma
- Sensitivity to an allergen resulting in an abnormal allergy blood test
- Occupational asthma
- Not responded well to an inhaled steroid, like Flovent
- Not responded well to a beta-agonist, like Advair
XOLAIR can be safely administered to patients who are 12 year of age or older.
Administration of XOLAIR
XOLAIR dosage is based on weight and level of IgE. The medication is administered by subcutaneous (under the skin) injection every 2 to 4 weeks. To evaluate whether XOLAIR is having a positive effect, it is necessary for the patient to receive treatment for at least 3 months. While XOLAIR can be a very effective treatment, it is not a cure for asthma and does not remain in the patient's system for more than 6 months after an injection.
Because there is a risk of anaphylaxis when XOLAIR is administered, patients receive injections at the doctor's office and remain on site for up to 2 hours to make sure they do not develop a dangerous reaction. If they do, they will receive necessary medical treatment immediately. If the doctor feels it is necessary, certain patients may be prescribed an epinephrine injector (EpiPen) so that they can self-administer the medication if they experience anaphylaxsis while away from the medical setting.
Side Effects and Risks of Taking XOLAIR
Clinical research studies on XOLAIR preceded its approval by the FDA and it has proven to be a very safe medication. The most common side effects occur at a comparable rate in patients taking XOLAIR and in those taking a placebo. The most serious risks, relating to anaphylaxis, heart attack, blot clot, parasitic infection, and cancer, affect less than 1 percent of patients to whom XOLAIR is administered.