The FDA said the treatment could be available in the next month
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first treatment for peanut allergies, and doctors may begin prescribing it within the next few weeks.
The treatment will provide families with a new option for treating the life-threatening condition and, though it isn’t intended to allow those allergic to peanuts to begin eating peanut-heavy foods, it will reduce the risk of reactions after accidental exposures.
The new treatment, named Palforzia from Aimmune Therapeutics Inc., works by exposing patients to a drug derived from peanut powder and the dose is equivalent to a small amount of peanuts. Children ages 4 to 17 years who are prescribed the new therapy begin building a resistance by increasing doses of Palforzia mixed with a semisolid food daily — such as applesauce, yogurt, or pudding — and after reaching a certain dose continues on that dose moving forward.
The first phase, called initial dose escalation, is consumed on a single day under the supervision of a medical professional. The second phase, up-dosing, takes place over several months and involves 11 increased dose levels prior to completion.
The FDA just approved the first treatment for peanut allergy. It works by exposing kids to tiny and escalating doses of peanuts. The immune system is #antifragile. So are kids. @nntaleb, @glukianoff. https://t.co/aGefrqyCzD pic.twitter.com/PoT75AVd9V
— Jonathan Haidt (@JonHaidt) February 1, 2020
“Peanut allergy affects approximately 1 million children in the U.S. and only 1 out of 5 of these children will outgrow their allergy,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in a news release. “Because there is no cure, allergic individuals must strictly avoid exposure to prevent severe and potentially life-threatening reactions.
A study showed the treatment increased the amount of peanuts that children could tolerate but didn’t demonstrate whether the therapy protects against accidental encounters with peanuts.
“Even with strict avoidance, inadvertent exposures can and do occur. When used in conjunction with peanut avoidance, Palforzia provides an FDA-approved treatment option to help reduce the risk of these allergic reactions in children with peanut allergy,” the statement continued.
Having a child who has a life-threatening food allergy is living in constant fear they will be exposed. It’s a constant education and requires vigilance at all times. Though the treatment won’t put an end to it, children who take the new therapy should see an improved ability to tolerate peanuts in small amounts if exposed. Families are still advised to have access to emergency epinephrine shots, such as EpiPen, in case of reactions. This treatment won’t magically cure their allergy but having peace of mind that, if exposed, there is another layer of protection built in is worth it.
“It’s a big deal,” said Dr. Subhadra Siegel, chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at New York Medical College in Valhalla, N.Y. “The thought of relieving that anxiety and being able to eat in a restaurant without worry. These are huge debilitating things for families with food allergies.”