Drug development for severe asthma: What are the metrics?

Cynthia B. Robinson, Joanne Leonard, Reynold A. Panettieri

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Although reversible airway obstruction in part defines asthma, lung function as measured by spirometry alone inadequately predicts the value of new therapeutic agents in the treatment of severe asthma. Our objectives are 1) to review whether pulmonary function and bronchodilator reversibility are endpoints for drug discovery and 2) to identify parameters that predict efficacy in drug development in severe asthma. An English language literature search using MedLine and PubMed was conducted from 1997 to present concerning pathophysiology, diagnosis and therapy of severe asthma using the terms "severe asthma," "irreversible asthma," "difficult asthma," "airway remodeling," "fixed airway obstruction," "reversibility" and "bronchodilator reversibility" as index terms. Eight studies were characterized that encompass 1424 subjects with asthma. Our review identified the limitations of using bronchodilator reversibility as a predictor in drug development for severe asthma. Neither improvement in lung function nor bronchodilator reversibility characterized the benefit of new drugs in the treatment of severe asthma. Newly approved drugs in the treatment of severe asthma show decreased asthma exacerbations and improved quality of life associated with steroid-sparing benefits without altering bronchodilator responsiveness or improving lung function. Although changes in lung function predict asthma control in mild/moderate asthma, lung function alone is inadequate to assess improvement in asthma control in severe asthma manifested by fixed airway obstruction. Endpoints that focus on asthma control, as defined by the Expert Panel Report 3 and GINA guidelines, may predict the value of new therapeutics in the management of severe asthma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-181
Number of pages6
JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


  • Airway remodeling
  • Drug discovery
  • Fixed airway obstruction
  • Irreversible asthma


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