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Peanut allergy treatment approved by FDA

There’s been a game changing development in the world of allergies. In the end of January, FDA approved a revolutionary new kind of peanut allergy treatment for children and adolescents called Palforzia. The approval comes following a double-blind, placebo-controlled study with roughly 500 participants.

The new allergy treatment brings a sigh of relief to many parents of children who live in fear that should their child accidentally consume the slightest bit of peanut; they’ll be in for a long visit to A&E.

The new treatment is a powder made from peanuts to be taken orally. It comes in colour-coded capsules up until the maintenance phase, when it comes in sachets. The powder can be taken with applesauce or yoghurt for convenience, so long as it doesn’t dissolve in what it’s mixed with.

How does the treatment work?

The treatment is labelled a kind of ‘oral immunotherapy’. The idea behind it is quite simple really, involving carefully administering tiny amounts of the allergen and increasing dosage over time (taken orally). Thus, slowly allow the body to become used to the allergen and hopefully cause less of a reaction should the patient accidentally consume a small amount of peanut.

The first stage is administered under doctor supervision.  This has been coined the ‘initial dose escalation phase’ and is consumed in a single day. The second stage of the treatment consists of 11 dosage increases over several months. Again, the first dose of each up-dosing level is administered under medical supervision, in case of any severe reactions. This is a precautious measure due to the potential for allergic reactions, even anaphylaxis, to occur.

The third and final stage is maintenance, with the drug then taken daily. It must be maintained in order for the treatment to be effective. Should the patient stop taking it, the benefits of immunotherapy are unlikely to persist.

How dangerous is this new allergy treatment?

The new drug is approved on the condition that all doctors administering the drug and those taking it undergo training in a special safety program to minimise the risk, should an adverse reaction occur during treatment.

There is the risk of an allergic reaction at each increased dosage, which is why they first of each increase is taken under medical supervision. There are certainly risks with this new form of treatment, a small number of participants in the study suffered anaphylaxis from an increased dosage, so parents will have to weigh the pros and cons, and determine if this treatment is suitable or not.

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