New Medication to Treat Severe Asthma Helps Winthrop Patients Breathe, Not Wheeze

Vol. 14, No. 2
Spring 2004

  • Winthrop Ranked #1 in New York State in Angioplasty and at the Top in the State for Open Heart Surgery

  • Winthrop Officially Opens New Heart Surgery Center & Pediatric Inpatient Center

  • Winthrop's New Pediatric Inpatient Center

  • The New Heart Surgery Center

  • NICU Team Helps Smallest Baby Ever Born at Winthrop Defy All Odds

  • Life After Gastric Bypass Surgery

  • New Medication to Treat Severe Asthma Helps Winthrop Patients Breathe, Not Wheeze

  • Winthrop Sets Out to Eliminate Racial, Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare at 3rd Annual Hispanic Health Fair

  • Peer Visitors Provide Hope, Faith to Stroke Patients at Winthrop Stroke Peer Visitor Program First of its Kind on Long Island

  • Diabetes Education Center Celebrates 25th Anniversary

  • New York Dragons Spread Cheer at Winthrop's Pediatric Inpatient Center

  • Golfers Hit the Greens at 19th Annual Winthrop Golf Tournament

  • 'A Night at the Opera' Benefits Winthrop's Kids

  • Insurance... a means for charitable giving

  • Jay's World, The New York Islanders Children's Foundation & Charles B. Wang Foundation Support Winthrop's New Pediatric Inpatient Unitd

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  • "This new medication improves quality of life in patients living with chronic asthma."
    Luz Fonacier, MD
    Asthmatics can now breathe easier thanks to a newly approved FDA drug being used at Winthrop-University Hospital's section of allergy and asthma called Xolair, a first-of-its kind biological drug that greatly improves the symptoms of moderate to severe allergic asthma. Xolair is significantly improving the quality of life for many asthmatics.

    Patient Frank Coppola, who was diagnosed with moderate to severe asthma six years ago, said he has been able to cut down on his asthma medications dramatically since starting Xolair several months ago. "The biggest change in my life since starting the treatment is that I don't think about my asthma all the time. I don't worry about not feeling good because I feel normal again."

    "Xolair is the first new, biological medication to treat asthma on the market in many years," explained Luz Fonacier, MD, head, Section of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at Winthrop. "Not only does it help minimize the symptoms of asthma like wheezing, shortness of breath and asthma attacks, but it also allows patients to decrease the use of other asthma medications."

    Xolair is injected into a patient once or twice a month depending on the severity of the asthma. Dosing is dependent on the amount of IGE allergic antibody in a person's system as well as on body weight.

    Luz Fonacier, MD gives patient Frank Coppola an injection of Xolair.
    The medication works by blocking IGE or immunoglobulin E, a substance that occurs naturally in the body. When individuals with allergic asthma breathe in allergens, the body makes more IGE in response to the allergen. This, in turn, causes the chemical reactions that lead to asthma symptoms. By the second or third treatment, the reduction of asthma symptoms is dramatic in many patients. Treatment must be ongoing to reap the benefits of the medication. Once off Xolair, asthma symptoms reappear after about two months.

    According to Mark Davis-Lorton, MD, Clinical Immunology Coordinator at Winthrop, "More than 50 percent of patients have experienced significant improvement in their asthma symptoms as well as a decrease in their use of oral and inhaled corticosteroids."

    Dr. Fonacier explained that this new drug is one of only a few that can help moderate to severe asthmatics, stating that some patients may even be able to discontinue oral corticosteroids altogether, under physician supervision. In studies, side effects have been minimal.

    "This new medication improves quality of life in patients living with chronic asthma," added Dr. Fonacier.

    Mr. Coppola can attest to that as he has enthusiastically taken up golf again now that the weather is warm.

    "I walk all 18 holes now with no problem and work out three to five days a week."

    Winthrop's section of allergy, asthma and immunology remains on the cutting-edge of new and emerging treatment options as well as clinical studies and research, including long term follow-up on patients taking Xolair. For more information on treating seasonal allergies and asthma, contact Winthrop's Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology at 516-663-2098/2097.

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