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Health, Science & Tech

Afraid of Needles? Liquid Meds Could Make Allergy Shots Unnecessary

Neeta Lind

Medicine taken “under the tongue” might replace traditional allergy injections, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunotherapy.

In a Phase III clinical trial researchers gave patients either a placebo or liquid immunotherapy.

Patients who took the medicine through ragweed season—about eight to 16 weeks— experienced a 43 percent decrease in symptoms compared to those on the placebo. 

Dr. Deborah Gentile, Director of Research in the Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunotherapy at Allegheny General Hospital and a lead author of the study, said the only current treatment to “cure” people of their allergies is through injections.

“And when you go on this immunotherapy, you need to get shots initially every week or so,” said Gentile. “And then, after about four or five months, your build up to a, what we call a ‘maintenance’ or ‘therapeutic’ level, and you need to be spaced out then to once a month, but you need to get the shot then for three to five years for it to change your immune system.”

Gentile said people are turned off by shots because they are painful and must be administered at the doctor’s office due to the potential for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening whole body allergic reaction.  

She said the liquid medicine is taken daily at home and is safer and more effective.

Gentile said the most common side effect is itchiness in the mouth and throat a few days into treatment.

“We really haven’t seen a lot of side effects,” said Gentile. “There is a risk of anaphylaxis or a whole body reaction. But right now, with the Phase III study, we’re looking at patients who have allergies and no other risk factors.”

Risk factors for anaphylaxis include a past history of reactions to food and drugs, or severe asthma.

Gentile said the medicine tastes similar to Chloraseptic, or cough medicine, and only a few people have complained.

Gentile said the medication is widely used in Europe and the cost to Americans should average $100 a month.

She said, now that a large study has been completed, the FDA review and approval process should last a year.