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FDA Approves Stallergenes’ Allergy Pill

Update Date: Apr 02, 2014 01:15 PM EDT
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The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved a new pill that could potentially replace allergy shots for some patients. The pill, Oralair, created by the French company, Stallergenes, can reduce symptoms and the need for medication by 16 to 30 percent.

"[The take-home pill form] is a significant advance and certainly one of the few brand new products we've had in quite a long time," commented James Li, chair of the division of allergy and immunology at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN reported by USA Today.

Like the allergy shot, Oralair takes several months before the effects will kick in. In addition, it can only protect people from certain grass allergens. Even though the pill might not help people right now, it reveals a shift in immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a method that exposes people to their allergens in extremely small amounts. The exposure is meant to reduce people's sensitivity and symptoms when they are faced with the real allergens from the environment.

Traditional immunotherapy, which comes in the form of shots, requires several sessions at the doctor's office for multiple doses. The pill would eliminate those trips and make allergy prevention a lot simpler.

The first pill will be administered at the doctor's office in case there are severe allergic reactions that would require immediate medical attention. If the pill is tolerated well, the patient will be instructed to take the pill once a day, which needs to be placed under the tongue. Pill treatment should start four months prior to allergy season. Based from the trials, the pill can cause side effects, such as itchy mouths or throat irritation. The pill has been approved for patients between the ages of 10 and 65.

One major downside of the pill is that it only treats one kind of allergy. Allergy shots cover more allergens, which make them more effective in treating people with multiple allergies.

"Most patients with allergies that we see here are allergic to grass pollens, tree pollens, ragweed and environmental allergens like dust mite and animal dander," Stanley Fineman, an Atlanta allergist and past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology commented.

Currently, there is no price information on the treatment.

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