Let’s Talk Biologics for COPD
Last updated: June 2023
I’m sure you’ve seen commercials for biologics. Biologic drugs are a newer (although not so new anymore) treatment option often discussed in other communities.
I have not personally tried a biologic. However, I have heard many success stories from people with asthma who have tried them.
Why am I bringing this up in this community? It’s because I hear biologics could be used to study COPD patients. What if they may soon become that new treatment option we’ve all been looking for?
What are biologics?
Well, we could get very complex here. I think the easy answer is to say that biologics are a type of drug that treats airway inflammation. COPD, like asthma, is a disease associated with airway inflammation. With asthma, a common type of inflammation is often caused by proteins such as interleukin-5 (IL-5).1,2
IL-5 is secreted by airway cells. IL-5 travels through your blood and recruits other cells to your airways. These cells cause airway inflammation.
Some people with asthma tend to have a lot of extra IL-5 in their lungs. So this causes them to have very inflamed airways. This can cause asthma that is difficult to control.2
Here is where biologics come in handy. At present, some biologics block the effects of IL-5. One such biologic is called Nucala (mepolizumab). By blocking the effects of IL-5, Nucala may help to reduce airway inflammation and thereby help people obtain better asthma control.2-4
What biologics are there for COPD?
At the present time, there are no biologics approved by the FDA for COPD. But several are presently being studied for COPD.2
As noted above, Nucala is among the biologics being studied for COPD. The idea here is that IL-5 may also contribute to COPD inflammation. If this is the case, then perhaps it may help improve COPD control. It may help open airways and make breathing easier. It may help reduce flare-ups and prevent COPD-related hospitalizations.2-4
There are various other biologics currently approved for asthma. These include Xolair (omalizumab), Dupixent (dupilumab), and Fasenra (benralizumab). Each of these is also being studied on COPD patients. One of these studies showed a decrease in COPD flare-ups by up to 20 percent. However, there is much more testing needed to confirm whether or not any of these will benefit people with COPD.2,4
There are some people with COPD who also have asthma. This is evidenced by a type of COPD called asthma/COPD overlap syndrome. So, in this case, an asthma-approved biologic may be of benefit. So far, this is the area of the most research.
Of course, there are other proteins that are thought to cause COPD inflammation. I am sure there may someday be biologics to block their effects too. Likewise, there may also be proteins that have yet to be linked with COPD. So, this may open the door to biologics that have yet to be created.
The future of biologics for COPD
Biologics are currently being studied for COPD. It's hard to tell how these studies will turn out.
If you are like me, you are optimistic these studies will show positive results. Biologics could someday soon become another viable option for those attempting to obtain better COPD control.
Do you feel comfortable asking your doctor questions about your COPD?