A new drug manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline in Wake County is aimed at helping people with a debilitating lung disease breathe more comfortably.
Manufactured at GSK's Zebulon facility, Anoro Ellipta is the first once-daily dual bronchodilator inhaler used for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
COPD is a progressive disease that restricts airways makes it hard to breathe. An estimated 12 million people are affected by COPD.
GSK says Anoro Ellipta helps muscles around the airways of the lungs relax in order to increase airflow.
The inhaler works by combining an inhaled anticholinergic called umeclidinium -- which affects the muscles around the large airways and stops the muscles from tightening -- and vilanterol, which improves breathing by relaxing the muscles of the airways to allow more air to flow into and out of the lungs.
"Both medications are located within a single Ellipta device," explained Dr. Elaine Jones, who led the team that developed Anoro. "It does it by two different mechanisms -- one is called a beta2-agonist and one is called a muscarinic antagonist. Both of those work together to open up the airways to get the air moving in and out."
The United States Food and Drug Administration approved the drug in December, giving COPD patients like Roger Ahlquist a chance to experience even the simplest tasks -- liking walking around his lake without fear of losing his breath.
"I can’t exercise like I would like to do. Most anything physical requires extra effort" Ahlquist said of living with COPD. "I'm not playing golf anymore because I can't do it anymore. I can hit the golf ball, but then I can't breathe."
COPD mostly affects smokers, but Ahlquist has never smoked. Rather, he has Alpha-1, a genetic condition in which his body doesn't make enough protein to protect his lungs and liver.
Before Anoro, Ahlquist explained that he took two inhaled steroid and nebulizer treatments every day. The idea of a once-a-day inhaler, he said, is liberating.
"Anything that helps me breathe is welcome," Ahlquist.
Jones equated suffering with COPD to trying to breathe though a straw while pinching your nose.
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