An asthma drug called omalizumab has been found to help the debilitating symptoms of chronic hives, also known as chronic idiopathic urticaria, or chronic spontaneous urticaria.
A clinical trial study of 323 patients tested three different doses of the drug. It was found that the highest dose, injected once a month for three months, showed the most improvement in the patients' conditions.
Patients were recruited from around the world, from 55 different institutions. Results of the study were published Feb. 24, 2013 on the online New England Journal of Medicine.
Chronic idiopathic urticaria hives affect approximately 3 million Americans, according to Sarbjit (Romi) Saini, M.D., a Johns Hopkins allergist and immunologist, and study co-investigator in a press release.
Twice as many women as men get the condition. People with chronic hives may develop swelling of their eyes, hands, face, lips and throat, which may cause difficulty breathing.
During flare-ups, the disease can be severe enough that patients do not leave their homes. This can cause them to feel socially isolated and may result in lost time from work.
Current treatment includes antihistamines, steroids and immunosuppressive drugs but they may not work, leaving a gap in how to help these patients.
All of the patients in the study had had chronic hives for over six months where antihistamines had not helped after one week of treatment.
This new option of omalizumab could provide a safe, non-sedating, well-tolerated treatment for them to consider, suggested Saini.
The participants were mostly women between the ages of 12 and 75 years old. They were assigned randomly one of three doses of omalizumab.
Either 300, 150 , 75 milligrams or placebo were injected once a month for three months. They were monitored for four additional months after treatment ended.
According to Saini, “initial relief from symptoms was quick and occurred after a week.”
The press release went on to say, “after three months, 53 percent of people experienced a total elimination of all hives and 44 percent had no further incidents of hives or itch.