Asthma experts call for introduction of drug which has ‘Lazarus-like’ effect on patients

Xolair has just been approved in the UK but access to it in Ireland is limited

Asthma experts have called for the introduction of a drug which has just been approved for treatment in the severest cases of the condition.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence has recommended that Xolair, a monoclonal antibody, be provided for both adults and children.

However, access to the drug in Ireland is "severely restricted", according to Prof Stephen Lane, a consultant respiratory physician at the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, Dublin, incorporating the National Children's Hospital.

Currently, Xolair is not funded by any of the national drug schemes, but is paid for out of local hospital budgets. Some 450 people in Ireland are affected by the severe form of asthma but only half receive Xolair, Prof Lane pointed out.


He described the effect on two-thirds of people who take the drug as being “Lazarus-like” and the benefits of it persist even after the patient stops taking it. “It is an absolutely amazing treatment when it works,” he said.

He said the distribution of the drug was “very inequitable” with patients in the south of the country particularly hard done by. Doctors had been agitating for “years and years” to have it prescribed.

Asthma Society of Ireland chairwoman Angela Edghill, who is also a severe allergic asthma patient, said the drug had made a big difference to her.

“Having access to Xolair has enabled me to live a more active, normal and well-controlled way of life,” she said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times