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Asthma Drug Takes the Itch Out of Chronic Hives

Hives Return

During the 16-week follow-up period after people stopped using Xolair, symptoms slowly returned for most patients, he says.

"When they get off the study drug, they start developing a recurrence of symptoms, so that by the end of the 16 weeks off treatment, they were close to those patients who were treated with placebo. That would suggest that in this particular study, the duration of treatment may have to be longer. We don't know how long, to reduce hopefully a more sustained remission," Casale says.

Still, "the results of the study are significant. Previous studies suggested this treatment might work, but this study shows us a definitive dose that actually reduces symptoms. Antihistamines and steroids have been the main treatments and do not work well or have major side effects," says Wesley Burks, MD, president of AAAAI.

"The prevalence of chronic [hives] is significant, and until now, a good treatment to make the disease go away has not been available," he says.

There may be more research needed to determine how long people need to stay on Xolair to keep the hives away. But there is now hope where there used to be frustration.

"There are a lot of patients that we see with this problem, and it's one of those diseases where I walk in and tell a patient, 'Gee, I have nothing but bad news for you. You have hives, most of the time we don't find a cause, this could last for years, and we don't really have a treatment.' It's very frustrating," Burks says.

Genentech says it plans to seek FDA approval of Xolair for chronic hives.

To see a version of this story for physicians, visit Medscape, the leading site for physicians and health care professionals.

This study was sponsored by Xolair's manufacturers, Genentech and Novartis Pharma. A number of the study's co-authors are employees of the companies. 

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