Throughout most of his life, every time he took a breath, Gil felt like there was a belt tightening around his chest. Diagnosed with severe asthma at age two, he faced extreme difficulty performing basic activities like sleeping and sometimes even speaking, as well as constant anxiety that a life-threatening asthma attack could be moments away.
One day, this worry became reality. A year ago, Gil nearly lost his life to an attack that came so suddenly and painfully that he and his family began to prepare for the worst.
This story is not uncommon. More than 26 million Americans have asthma, which equates to 8.3 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Additionally, asthma is the leading chronic illness in children. Up to 10 percent of asthma patients have severe asthma. Severe, uncontrolled asthma is debilitating and potentially fatal with patients experiencing frequent exacerbations and significant limitations on lung function and quality of life.
For these reasons, America’s biopharmaceutical researchers are hard at work in search for new and better methods of treating asthma. One of those researchers, René, has devoted her life’s work to the development and launch of biologic treatments for respiratory conditions like Gil’s.
In asthma and other respiratory conditions, such as COPD, recent advancements are offering hope that personalized medicine can play a key role in diagnosing and treating these diseases. For example, progress in developing biologic medicines for severe asthma has allowed for what René calls “the kind of precision that can allow us to provide the right medicines to the right patients.” Armed with a greater understanding of disease biology, it has become evident that the response to treatment is different for each patient. Personalized medicine, sometimes referred to as precision or individualized medicine, uses an individual patient’s unique information about genes, proteins and the environment to help locate the most optimal treatment choice.
This progress has real-world impact and is changing the lives of patients like Gil, who, under the guidance of his physician, began a course of treatment with a new biologic therapy about a month after his life-threatening attack.
The first night, Gil slept without waking up from shortness of breath for the first time in years. Today, the change has been so profound that it feels like he has been given a new pair of lungs. One of the most rewarding moments came when recent breathing tests revealed normal lung function—something a severe asthma patient could only dream of just a few years ago.
“The new treatment has given me my life back, and more importantly, it’s given me back to my family,” says Gil. “Without innovation, I wouldn’t have the life I’m living today.”
Currently, there are more than 100 medicines in development for asthma, respiratory allergies and other breathing diseases, including 49 for asthma alone. Due to the hard work and dedication of biopharmaceutical researchers across the country, asthma patients have more hope for relief than ever before.
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