Thank you for your inquiry.
I am not certain from your inquiry whether you are asking a specific question such as whether or not immunoglobulin replacement therapy might be of help to your patient, or whether you are simply asking for general comments. Since you did not cite a specific issue, I have made the following comments very general.
Recalcitrant asthma is a problem that most allergists/immunologists will face periodically and, as you know, there have been numerous publications dealing with this issue. In your particular patient, since you mentioned that the pulmonologist caring for him has tried “everything,” I assume that multiple alternative treatments have been suggested. Nonetheless, not being sure of this, I would like to call your attention to several therapies which, in some instances, have seemed to be helpful in cases such as the one you have described. It is clear, however, that these modalities are not universally effective and, therefore, their use in any individual patient is to be considered a matter of trial and error. However, in your patient, it would appear that any therapy that has shown any usefulness in the past, and has not been tried in your patient, should be considered.
I apologize if these treatments have already been tried, but I do want to mention them nonetheless.
2. Cyclosporin or tacrolimus
5. High dose immunoglobulin replacement
6. Bronchial thermoplasty
7. Anti-TNF alpha
10. Aspirin desensitization if your patient has aspirin sensitivity
As noted, the use of these agents has been limited to recalcitrant cases such as your patient, and they have not been effective in all instances, but there is theoretical evidence for their efficacy and there have been isolated patients who have appeared to respond to each.
Of these, immunoglobulin replacement, since your inquiry seems to imply that you are considering immunoglobulin replacement treatment, might be a reasonable choice for your patient. The doses, however, used for asthma therapy are often somewhat higher than those normally given for primary immunodeficiency disorders.
There are references in the literature that you could obtain for each one of these treatments by searching PubMed or Google by typing in the particular drug and following with the entry of "asthma". Since, however, as mentioned, immunoglobulin replacement treatment seems a reasonable choice, I have copied below an abstract discussing this treatment.
I might also mention, for diagnostic purposes, you should consider Churg-Strauss in this patient. With the high dose of prednisone the patient was taking, one would not expect to see eosinophilia. If an ANCA has not been ordered, I would also consider doing this as well.
Thank you again for your inquiry and we hope this response is helpful to you.
Allergy Asthma Proc. 2006 Jan-Feb;27(1):53-8.
The response to intravenous immunoglobulin replacement therapy in patients with asthma with specific antibody deficiency.
Schwartz HJ, Hostoffer RW, McFadden ER Jr, Berger M.
Department of Pediatrics, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital and University Hospitals of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA.
In a retrospective analysis of our patient population, 20 difficult-to-treat patients with asthma were found to have clinical and laboratory evidence of specific antibody deficiency, and several had mild hypogammaglobulinemia. Intravenous immunoglobulin replacement therapy at 400-600 mg/kg every 3-4 weeks gave remarkable clinical benefits, with reduction in morbidity, number of hospitalizations, steroid therapy, and number of respiratory infections. We believe that, in this group of patients, the use of intravenous immunoglobulin perhaps allows the achievement of asthma prevention rather than an amelioration of inflammation.
Phil Lieberman, M.D.