Novel Therapies in Asthma: Leukotriene Antagonists, Biologic Agents, and Beyond

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Asthma is one of the most common conditions seen in clinical practice and carries both a significant disease burden in terms of patient morbidity and a high economic burden in both direct and indirect costs. Despite this, it remains a comparatively poorly understood disease, with only modest advances in treatment over the past decade. Corticosteroids remain the cornerstone of therapy. Both patient compliance with medications and physician adherence to evidence-based guidelines are often poor, and a high percentage of patients continue to have inadequately controlled disease even with optimal therapy. Following a contextual overview of the current treatment guidelines, this review focuses on novel asthma therapies, beginning with the introduction of the leukotriene receptor antagonist zafirlukast in the 1990s, continuing through advanced endoscopic therapy and into cytokine-directed biologic agents currently in development. Along with clinically relevant biochemistry and pharmacology, the evidence supporting the place of these therapies in current guidelines will be highlighted along with data comparing these agents with more conventional treatment. A brief discussion of other drugs, such as those developed for unrelated conditions and subsequently examined as potential asthma therapies, is included.

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