omalizumab, Xolair

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is omalizumab, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Omalizumab is an injectable drug that is used for treating asthma. Omalizumab is a protein that resembles one type of human antibody. Antibodies are proteins produced by the body that recognize foreign substances such as bacteria (that cause infection) and pollens (that cause allergies). Once they recognize a foreign substance, the antibodies attach to receptors on two types of cells in tissues and blood, mast cells and basophils. These cells then release chemicals that cause an allergic reaction that leads to inflammation. Omalizumab blocks the receptors on the surfaces of the mast cells and basophils to which antibodies attach, thereby preventing antibodies from attaching to the cells. As a result, the cells do not release their chemicals, and the allergic reaction and inflammation are prevented. In asthmatic individuals, allergic reactions often cause attacks of asthma. Omalizumab reduces the attacks of asthma by preventing the allergic reactions caused by foreign substances. Omalizumab was approved by the FDA in June 2003.

What brand names are available for omalizumab?

Xolair

Is omalizumab available as a generic drug?

GENERIC AVAILABLE: No PREPARATIONS: Sterile powder for Injection: 5 ml vial (150 mg)

Do I need a prescription for omalizumab?

Yes

What are the side effects of omalizumab?

The most common side effects observed in patients treated with omalizumab are: 

  • headaches,
  • viral infections,
  • upper respiratory tract infections,
  • injection-site reactions such as

Use of omalizumab may also lead to serious, life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) which manifest as bronchospasm with difficulty breathing, fainting, low blood pressure, and swelling of the tongue or throat.

It is recommended that patients be observed for these reactions for at least two hours after injection of omalizumab; however, these reactions can occur up to 24 hours or longer after the injections, and they have occurred even after one year of regular treatment. Since allergic reactions can occur after any dose, patients should carry medications for emergency self-treatment. In clinical trials cancer occurred more frequently in patients who took omalizumab.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/15/2017

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