Asthma drug is a ‘beacon of hope’ for thousands of people with a severe form of the disease

A new injection to treat severe asthma is ‘a beacon of hope’ for people with the lung disease, a charity has said.

The NHS has this week agreed to pay for a drug costing nearly £2,000 per dose to treat people with eosinophilic asthma, a particularly bad form of the condition.

The drug, benralizumab, is used alongside other asthma medication to reduce the risk of asthma attacks, and was approved in the US in November last year.

It is given as an injection once every four weeks for the first three months and then once every eight weeks.

At its full market price the drug would cost almost £12,000 per patient per year after their first year – six bimonthly doses at £1,995 each – but the NHS may pay less.

Asthma UK says the medication has the potential to transform the lives of around 100,000 people who have severe asthma which does not respond to treatment. 

People with eosinophilic asthma may find it does not respond to treatment with inhalers or steroids, according to Asthma UK

Around 5.4 million people in the UK and 25 million Americans have asthma, and some 100,000 Brits have eosinophilic asthma, according to the charity Asthma UK.

People with eosinophilic asthma, at which the new drug is targeted, have more white blood cells in their lungs which makes asthma attacks and breathing problems worse.

Eosinophilic asthma is ‘resistant’ to inhalers 

The condition usually develops in people who become asthmatic as adults but can also occur in children. 

It is often not improved by traditional asthma treatments such as inhalers and steroids so can be harder to manage.


Asthma is a common but incurable condition which affects the small tubes inside the lungs.

It can cause them to become inflamed, or swollen, which restricts the airways and makes it harder to breathe.

The condition affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood. Symptoms may improve or even go away as children grow older, but can return in adulthood.

Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.

Treatment usually involves medication which is inhaled to calm down the lungs.

Triggers for the condition include allergies, dust, air pollution, exercise and infections such as cold or flu.

If you think you or your child has asthma you should visit a doctor, because it can develop into more serious complications like fatigue or lung infections.

Source: NHS  

Benralizumab works by stopping the body from producing so many white blood cells in the lungs, which reduces how severe asthmatic reactions are.

‘This new drug offers a beacon of hope’ 

Asthma UK’s chief executive, Kay Boycott said: ‘This new drug Benralizumab offers a beacon of hope to thousands of people in the UK who have an acute form of asthma called severe eosinophilic asthma.

‘This debilitating form of asthma is resistant to regular treatments such as inhalers and steroids, meaning many people are left dealing with terrifying asthma symptoms such as gasping for breath, or repeated trips to A&E.

‘This drug has the potential to transform the quality of lives of many. NHS England now must ensure this treatment becomes readily available to those who need it.’

The drug was approved for use on the NHS by NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – which decides which drugs the NHS should pay for. 

Benralizumab costs £1,955 per injection – nearly £14,000 per person for their first year – but the NHS is believed to have negotiated a lower price.

UK asthma deaths are 50 per cent higher than European average 

The announcement comes just months after public health data showed deaths from asthma in the UK have risen by a quarter in the past five years.   

The number of Britons who suffered a fatal asthma attack increased by 24.6 per cent from 1,151 in 2011 to 1,434 in 2015.  

And this rate is 50 per cent higher than the European average, and more than three times higher than the Dutch figure. 

In May experts blamed complacency among both medical staff and patients in the routine care of the condition, prevention and during attacks.