One woman's journey with severe asthma
(BPT) - This content was sponsored by GSK. Jenna is a real patient who was on treatment at the time of these interviews. GSK paid for her time and expenses in sharing her unique experiences. Individual results may vary.
Can you remember a time when a teacher of yours positively impacted your life? According to a study conducted by the ING Foundation, 88% of Americans say they had a teacher who had a significant, positive impact on their life and 98% reported that they believe a good teacher can change the course of a student’s life. Teachers provide our children a space to learn and grow each day, whether virtual or in-person.
“A normal day for a teacher, you are always on your feet ready to move, ready to catch the next problem and solve it,” shared Jenna, an art teacher and artist.
When those daily responsibilities are met with respiratory conditions, like asthma, a teacher’s job can become even more difficult.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease where inflammation in the lungs causes the airways to narrow. Symptoms of asthma can include shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, wheezing when exhaling and trouble sleeping due to asthma symptoms. Of the 25 million people in the U.S. living with asthma, 5-10% suffer from severe asthma. Severe asthma is often characterized by a higher frequency of symptoms.
During her first year of teaching, Jenna found that her severe asthma was negatively impacting her work. She felt disappointed that her condition was holding her back from being able to give her students her best while still maintaining her own health and well-being.
"Do I stay and just push through this stress, and this hurt and this not being able to breathe in my classroom? Do I stay for them, or do I have to go and take care of myself? It's kind of a constant battle,” said Jenna.
Severe asthma did not only impact her work life but also her personal life. Jenna shared, “When you’re not able to teach and do the things that you want to with your students it's really difficult. When you’re not able to partake in activities with your family, it’s really frustrating.”
After sharing her symptoms with her doctor, Jenna learned that not all asthma is the same, and for some people, including about half of those with severe asthma, elevated eosinophil levels can be a key factor. This type of asthma is called severe eosinophilic asthma (SEA). Jenna’s body was producing excess eosinophils, which likely contributed to the severity of her symptoms and the frequency of her asthma attacks. This led to her diagnosis of SEA by an asthma specialist.
The role of eosinophils [ee-uh-sin-uh-fils]
Jenna learned that everyone has eosinophils in their body, which are a type of white blood cell that plays an important role in maintaining the immune system and helping to fight off certain infections. Her doctor told her that if you have an increased number of eosinophils, your lungs may become swollen, or inflamed. This can cause severe asthma attacks. She learned that a simple blood test that measures eosinophil levels can help determine if you have SEA. Once you have an eosinophilic asthma diagnosis, together, you and your doctor will decide if adding a different kind of asthma treatment could help.
According to Dr. Tom Corbridge, Senior Medical Lead at GSK, eosinophils play a critical role in a handful of conditions, not just SEA, and symptoms can present themselves in a variety of ways: “In most healthy people, eosinophils make up less than 5% of the body's white blood cells. When a person has higher numbers of eosinophils without a known cause, they may have an eosinophilic disease, which can cause severe symptoms long-term. Some of these persistent symptoms include frequent asthma attacks and reduced lung function.”
Eosinophils can impact other diseases in addition to asthma, including:
- Chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps (CRSwNP) is a disease of the nasal passages and sinuses with soft tissue growths called nasal polyps. Nasal polyp symptoms can include nasal congestion, nasal discharge, mucus in the throat, loss of smell, and facial pain. When people have CRSwNP, there is inflammation in the nasal passages and sinuses. Eosinophils play an important role in this inflammation.
- Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA), formerly known as Churg-Strauss syndrome, is a condition characterized by asthma, an increase in eosinophils and inflammation of the blood vessels (also known as vasculitis). EGPA is characterized by the development of asthma as an adult, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), growths in the nose (nasal polyps) and an increased eosinophil count.
- Hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES) is another condition connected to increased levels of eosinophils and is also a rare and under-diagnosed disease. People with HES often have eosinophil levels three times greater than the average, which causes inflammation and organ damage, and can significantly impact patients’ ability to function and complete day-to-day activities.
A key protein in our body called IL-5 (interleukin-5) plays a key role in eosinophil production. While the mechanism of action of NUCALA (mepolizumab) is not fully understood, NUCALA targets eosinophils in the body. NUCALA binds to IL-5 and blocks IL-5 from making more eosinophils. Having less eosinophils can help reduce inflammation. This may lead to fewer asthma attacks.
NUCALA is the only anti-IL-5 biologic approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in four eosinophil-driven diseases: SEA, CRSwNP, EGPA, and HES.
NUCALA is a prescription medicine for the:
- add-on maintenance treatment of patients 6 and older with severe eosinophilic asthma. NUCALA is not used to treat sudden breathing problems.
- add-on maintenance treatment of CRSwNP in adults whose disease is not controlled with nasal corticosteroids.
- treatment of adults with EGPA.
- treatment of people 12 years of age and older with HES.
Do not use NUCALA if you are allergic to mepolizumab or any of the ingredients in NUCALA.
Not for sudden breathing problems. Allergic reactions can occur, including anaphylaxis. Get help right away for swelling of face, mouth, tongue, or trouble breathing. Infections that can cause shingles have occurred. Don’t stop taking steroids unless told by your doctor. Tell your doctor if you have a parasitic infection. May cause headache, injection site reactions, back pain, fatigue, mouth/throat and joint pain.
Please see full Important Safety Information below and full Prescribing Information.
Finally Receiving a Diagnosis and Treatment
Ultimately, Jenna's doctor diagnosed her with SEA and recommended she try NUCALA, which she now takes monthly (every four weeks).
Her advice to others with similar struggles: “Hang in there. Give things like NUCALA a chance.”
Learn more about NUCALA
Ask your primary care provider to refer you to a specialist for more information on a targeted treatment approach. A blood test can be administered to determine eosinophil levels and help diagnose certain diseases like SEA and EGPA.
Important Safety Information
Do not use NUCALA if you are allergic to mepolizumab or any of the ingredients in NUCALA.
Do not use to treat sudden breathing problems.
NUCALA can cause serious side effects, including:
- allergic (hypersensitivity) reactions, including anaphylaxis. Serious allergic reactions can happen after you get your NUCALA injection. Allergic reactions can sometimes happen hours or days after you get a dose of NUCALA. Tell your healthcare provider or get emergency help right away if you have any of the following symptoms of an allergic reaction:
- swelling of your face, mouth, and tongue
- breathing problems
- fainting, dizziness, feeling lightheaded (low blood pressure)
- Herpes zoster infections that can cause shingles have happened in people who received NUCALA.
Before receiving NUCALA, tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you:
- are taking oral or inhaled corticosteroid medicines. Do not stop taking your other medicines, including your corticosteroid medicines, unless instructed by your healthcare provider because this may cause other symptoms to come back.
- have a parasitic (helminth) infection.
- are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if NUCALA may harm your unborn baby.
- A pregnancy registry for women with asthma who receive NUCALA while pregnant collects information about the health of you and your baby. You can talk to your healthcare provider about how to take part in this registry or you can get more information and register by calling 1-877-311-8972 or visit www.mothertobaby.org/asthma.
- are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. You and your healthcare provider should decide if you will use NUCALA and breastfeed. You should not do both without talking with your healthcare provider first.
- are taking prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
The most common side effects of NUCALA include: headache, injection site reactions (pain, redness, swelling, itching, or a burning feeling at the injection site), back pain, and tiredness (fatigue). Mouth/throat pain and joint pain have been reported with CRSwNP.
NUCALA injection is available as a 100-mg/mL vial, Autoinjector, and prefilled syringe.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
For more information on NUCALA, visit www.nucala.com.
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©2021 GSK or licensor.
MPLPRSR210002 November 2021
Produced in USA.