The first new asthma pill for nearly 20 years has the power to significantly reduce the severity of the condition, according to a study led by the University of Leicester.

The research funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the EU (AirPROM), was described by the lead researcher as “a game changer for future treatment of asthma.”

Fevipiprant (QAW039) significantly decreased the symptoms, improved lung function, reduced inflammation and repaired the lining of airways. The drug is currently being evaluated in late stage clinical trials for efficacy in patients with severe asthma.

A total of 61 people took part in the research. One group was given 225mg of the drug twice a day for 12 weeks and the other participants were assigned to a placebo group. Fevipiprant and the placebo were added to the medications the participants were already taking. The study was designed primarily to examine the effects on inflammation in the airway by measuring the sputum eosinophil count, an inflammation measurement of a white blood cell that increases in asthma and is used to assess the severity of the condition.

Professor Christopher Brightling, who is a NIHR Senior Research Fellow and Clinical Professor in Respiratory Medicine at the University of Leicester, led the study at the NIHR Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit, which is based at the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.

He said: “A unique feature of this study was how it included measurements of symptoms, lung function using breathing tests, sampling of the airway wall and CT scans of the chest to give a complete picture of how the new drug works.

“Most treatments might improve some of these features of disease but, with Fevipiprant, improvements were seen with all of the types of tests.

“We already know that using treatments to target eosinophilic airway inflammation can substantially reduce asthma attacks.

“This new treatment, Fevipiprant, could likewise help to stop preventable asthma attacks, reduce hospital admissions and improve day-to-day symptoms- making it a ‘game changer’ for future treatment.”

Gaye Stokes, 54, from Grantham in Lincolnshire, who has had severe asthma for 16 years and was part of the Fevipiprant group, said: “I knew straight away that I had been given the drug. I felt like a completely different person. I had more get up and go, I was less wheezy and for the first time in years I felt really, really well.

“For me, it felt like a complete wonder drug and I can’t wait for it to be available because I really think it could make a huge difference to me.”

Professor Brightling said that the latest advance underpinned the work of the Leicester Precision Medicine Institute, a Centre of Excellence involving the University of Leicester and the NHS in Leicester.