14 September is World Atopic Eczema Day, also known as atopic dermatitis (AD), and this year sees a breakthrough for South African AD sufferers, with the approval of a new biologic treatment that has been shown to significantly ease the burden of this disease.1 AD is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease characterised by unpredictable flare-ups, driven in part by a malfunction in the immune system.
AD is one of the most common inflammatory skin diseases, and it has multiple negative consequences for overall physical and mental health and social interactions, which reduce quality of life.1 The most stressful symptom is severe itch (pruritus), which is a chronic problem for 87–100% of patients with AD.
“There were few options available in South Africa to treat people with moderate-to-severe AD, and many patients were unable to adequately control their condition despite the currently available topical and steroid treatment options,” says Dr Michael Klein, General Manager of Sanofi Genzyme for South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
However, there is now hope for sufferers in the form of an approved, innovative biologic therapy in South Africa, for the treatment of moderately to severely affected adult patients with AD which is not responding to standard topical treatments with corticosteroids.
Biologics are targeted, genetically engineered treatments made from living tissue or cells.
As the first registered biologic medicine approved for moderate-to-severe AD, this new therapy has transformed the treatment landscape for patients around the world by targeting the type of inflammation that underlies the disease. The new treatment enables dual blocking of the small protein molecule (IL-4 and IL-13) pathways which drive type 2 inflammation.
It is given by subcutaneous injection, which can be self-administered every other week after the initial loading dose. It can also be used with or without topical corticosteroids.
“The new therapy will revolutionise the way South African dermatologists treat patients with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis, and will dramatically improve their quality of life,” says Dr Willie Visser, Head of Dermatology, Stellenbosch University.
Recent studies have shown that patients treated with the new biologic therapy showed rapid and sustained improvement in the magnitude of itching, starting from their first dose.
“Living with AD doesn’t have to be a burden. If you follow a proper treatment regime you can live a normal, better quality of life. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with AD, speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about suitable treatment options, including the new biologic therapy,” says Dr Klein.
Honstein T, Werfel T. ‘An Update on Clinical Experiences and Clinical Studies on Novel Pharmaceutical Developments for the Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis’, Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol 2020;20(4):386-394.
De Benedetto A, et al. ‘Atopic Dermatitis: A Disease Caused by Innate Immune Defects?’, J Invest Dermatol 2009;129(1):14-30.
Antrim A. ‘Expected FDA approvals for 2021 include drugs for Alzheimer disease, atopic dermatitis’, Pharmacy Times 2021; April 29. Available from: https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/expected-fda-approvals-for-2021-include-drugs-for-alzheimer-disease-atopic-dermatitis, accessed 7 September 2021.
National Eczema Association. Prescription injectables: Biologics [n.d.]. Available from: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/injectibles/, accessed 31 August 2021.
Press Contact: Kerry Simpson