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Expanding the Arsenal for Asthma Patients

By James M. Tracy, DO

With every new treatment option, physicians have a better chance of getting it right for each individual patient. I’ve seen this firsthand as new biologic medications have made asthma more bearable for some of my patients.

Take Gary, for example. He has been coming to see me for over a decade. When we first met, he had severe uncontrolled asthma. As new drugs became available that could help his situation, we gradually moved him to more effective therapies over time, including biologics.

Biologics are fast-acting injectables that help quell asthma symptoms safely and effectively. Biologics excite me as they are the first treatment option of its kind for asthma patients who have long struggled to do the body’s most basic act: breathe.

Over the years, Gary got better, but he still wasn’t great. His asthma was still disrupting his everyday life. He couldn’t taste or smell, he wasn’t sleeping, and he was having a hard time focusing at work. In short: asthma was still controlling his quality of life.

It wasn’t until he tried a biologic medication that we saw the optimal results we had been seeking. He was able to go to sleep without having asthma attacks. He could work productively. He could even exercise normally, whereas beforehand that was out of the question.

Gary is the perfect example of finding relief through patient-centered care. Every patient is different. Not every patient can benefit from the same one-size-fits-all approach. We instead worked together to find a treatment that worked for him specifically.

Gary’s story also re-enforced that as providers, we need to be diligent about following up with our patients. Many people are sick for years and don’t seek help. Asthma will change and morph over time, and treatment options for asthma will only continue to expand. We can be a bridge and resource between patients and treatment.

There is a time and place for biologics. For Gary, who had exhausted all other treatment options, biologics gave him his life back.

The growing number of biologics continue to offer new options for respiratory patients. Insurers, policymakers and stakeholders alike should be aware of the life improvement these drugs have already provided asthma patients and do everything in their power to ensure patients in need can access them.

James M. Tracy, DO, is a practicing allergist and immunologist. He is also a member of the Alliance for Patient Access’ Respiratory Therapy Access Working Group.

Breakthrough, an IfPA blog series, offers health care providers a voice in the ever-growing conversation about innovation and value.

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