Black-box on Xolair prompts lesson for managing medications

Nancy Sanker Health Guide
  • Yesterday the wording was released for the black box or warning label on the asthma drug Xolair by Genentech Inc. The medication, generically known as omalizumab, is given by injection and was developed for individuals ages 12 and above who have moderate to severe allergic asthma and have not responded to inhaled steroids.


    The FDA mandated the revised label because patients receiving Xolair can experience anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening reaction characterized by shortness of breath, swelling of the tongue/throat, wheezing, rash and low blood pressure. This extreme reaction can occur at any dose and up to 24 hours later, plus it can occur “even if the patient had no reaction to the first dose.”   

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    What does this mean to you and me? Certainly, if you or someone you care about is on this medication you should consult your healthcare professional. Being prepared, not scared, is the key. Even if you are not taking Xolair, this is a potent reminder to follow the three steps below.


    1. If you are given a prescription for a new medication, ask questions!

    • What are the benefits? Do they outweigh the risks?
    • What potential reactions should you watch for, and what is the time period you should be extra vigilant?
    • What symptoms should prompt you to call for help and who should you call?


    1. You should develop an Asthma Action Plan and an Emergency Plan with your healthcare professional. Keep it in a place where other individuals have ready access. If you travel, keep a copy with you. It’s easy to ignore this important step because professionals, parents and patients are busy, but don’t let it slide.


    1. If you are at risk of experiencing anaphylaxis and a self-injectable form of epinephrine like an EpiPen or Twinject  has been prescribed for you, make sure it has not expired, do not store it in a hot place like the glove compartment of your car, and simplest of all... keep it with you! Every year there are tragic cases of individuals who die needlessly because their meds are not “on board.”


    I’m alive to write this today because I stored my EpiPen near the phone in an easy-to-remember-in-an-emergency place. Who knew a bagel would cause a totally unanticipated reaction? Life is all about being prepared – talk to your healthcare professional soon.

Published On: July 03, 2007