NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – More than 24 million American have asthma and about 10 percent have a hard time controlling it, despite treatment.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports, there’s a new type of therapy for those patients.

The new medicines are called biologics, because they are a synthetic version of compounds the body might make on its own. They target some of the cells and chemicals that lead to inflammation and hyper-reactivity of airways in asthma patients.

Running is a treat for Lynn Kocka.

“I feel like I’m getting back to my fitness level,” she said.

She struggled with severe asthma for years. Despite standard medicines, she had difficulty exercising and even working – until she tried biologic therapy.

“Biologics actually target a specific pathway that’s causing the asthma to try and target it, so that asthma can get controlled,” said Dr. Sumita Khatri, of Cleveland Clinic.

Kocka receives an injection of biologic therapy in the back of her arm every four weeks, and it didn’t take long to see results.

“Within five days, I could tell in my chest that I was not like coughing as much. So it was pretty amazing,” she said.

Research shows biologic therapies effectively control severe asthma, resulting in fewer flare-ups and trips to the hospital, and may even reduce the need for some asthma medicines.

“Some patients with severe asthma, they can be on high dose oral steroids, too, which has some significant side effects. So these biologics might actually reduce the need for those oral steroids,” said Dr. Khatri.

Kocka is active again and says she has her life back.

“I can absolutely do everything I could do before I became sick – going to the store, running here, there everywhere, chasing the dogs, just everyday normal life is totally 100 percent better,” she said.

Asthma is actually a variety of diseases with different causes in different patients, Gomez reports. That’s why not every medication works on every patient, whether it’s biologic or the gold standard for asthma: inhaled steroids. So it’s a little bit of a trial and error to find the right one.


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