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Fighting Asthma

Biopharmaceutical Research Companies Are Studying More Than 70 Medicines for Asthma

Asthma is a narrowing of the airways to the lungs caused by inflammation in the air passages resulting from both genetic and environmental influences. 

Asthma is the most common chronic condition in children in the U.S., and its prevalence has increased 12 percent in just the last decade. In 2008, asthma accounted for an estimated 14.4 million lost school days for children and 14.2 million lost work days for adults. Daily, 40,000 Americans miss school or work due to asthma, costing the U.S. economy an estimated $56 billion each year in direct and indirect costs. Asthma is a lifelong disease that can limit a person’s quality of life and even lead to death, if not treated properly. The good news is

that potential treatments offer asthma sufferers new hope of living a healthier, more productive lives. America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are developing 74 medicines to treat or prevent asthma. All of the medicines are either in clinical trials or awaiting review by the U.S. FDA. Advances in our understanding of diseases and how to treat them have allowed America’s biopharmaceutical research companies to conduct the cutting-edge research needed to reduce the destructive toll of asthma.

24 Million Afflicted

An estimated 24 million American adults and children suffer from asthma, with prevalence increasing by 12% in the last decade.

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Asthma in Females and Males

Females traditionally have consistently higher rates of asthma than males. In 2009, females were about 11.1% more likely than males to ever have been diagnosed with asthma. The overall prevalence rate in females was 33% greater than the rate in males. Among adults over 18 years, females were 76% more likely than males to have asthma. However, this pattern is reversed among children. The current asthma prevalence rate for boys under 18 was 44% higher than the rate among girls. The difference in rates between sexes is statistically significant in both children and adults. 

Dr. Steven Pascoe talks about asthma, his patients, and his hope for the future.


Of Sufferers In 2009 Had An Attack That Year.

That equates to an estimated 12.8 million Americans, including 4.1 million children under 18. The asthma attack rate was 42.6 per 1,000 population

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Asthma in African Americans

African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma over their lifetime. In 2009, the asthma prevalence was 43% higher in blacks than in whites, and the asthma attack prevalence in blacks was 40% higher than in whites. In 2007, the age-adjusted death rate for asthma was 2.8 times higher among the black population than among the white population.  The difference between races is statistically significant. 


People Died of Asthma in 2007.

Of these deaths, 152 were children under age 15. The number of asthma deaths has decreased by 26 percent since 1999.

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Medicines in the Pipeline

America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are working on 74 medicines to treat asthma.

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Related Medicines

  • Reducing Eosinophil Accumulation

    Eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) are important for killing parasites in the body, but in asthma they can accumulate in lung tissue and cause damage to the lining of the air passages. Interleukin-5 (IL-5) is essential for the production, activation and maturation of eosinophils. A monoclonal antibody in development inhibits IL-5 resulting in a sustained reduction in the numbers of eosinophils accumulating in the lungs and stopping those already there from causing damage.

  • Controlling Pathogens

    An inhalation therapy in development is part of a new class of asthma treatments that stimulate the natural immune defense in the airways. The treatment aims to prevent infections and acute exacerbations of chronic or progressive respiratory diseases, such as asthma. The therapy acts against an array of pathogens that can cause respiratory infections in asthma patients often leading to acute inflammation of the airways.

  • Alleviating Allergy Symptoms

    A monoclonal antibody in development targets interleukin-13 (IL-13), a protein that is thought to play a pivotal role in the symptoms of allergic asthma, including airway hyper-responsiveness and increased mucus secretion that contribute to airway obstruction. The belief is that by directly targeting IL-13, it may be possible to alleviate the symptoms of allergic disorders, such as asthma.

  • Blocking Inflammatory Responses

    Responses to environmental allergens can cause inflammation of the airways in allergic asthma. It is thought that the increased presence of both prostaglandin and the protein receptor CRTh2 on inflammatory cells play an important role in asthma symptoms, such as coughing, difficulty breathing and lower lung function. Several medicines in development aim to interfere with the pro-inflammatory effects of prostaglandin by blocking CRTh2, thereby reducing asthma symptoms.



View and download resources that highlight innovations in treatment for asthma: