Drug development strategies for asthma: in search of a new paradigm

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The spiraling costs of asthma treatment seem set to continue rising, given the equivocal performance of the latest generation of specific anti-inflammatory drugs in trials in adult asthmatics. We argue that the continuation of this trend is inevitable unless there is a substantial realignment of entrenched drug development policy in the pharmaceutical industry and a parallel shift in licensing policy by regulatory authorities to encourage the development of drugs capable of halting the progression from acute to chronic asthma when the disease first manifests in childhood. The theoretical framework for such an approach, including proof-of-principle data from studies in children with early-stage disease and a range of candidate drugs, already exists. What is needed is informed debate on the risks versus potential benefits of this approach.

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Figure 1: Blocking the progression of intermittent infant wheezing to persistent asthma: protection of airway tissues during critical growth and differentiation in early childhood.

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