New drug can help prevent allergic reactions before they happen

A new pill could help people deal with life threatening allergies, but at a cost

The new drug is only available for people with peanut allergies

The new drug is only available for people with peanut allergies

Parker Rhee, Reporter

According to the New York Times, the Atlantic, and NPR

For the over 1.2 million Americans who have peanut allergies, the only way to deal with life threatening reactions is to treat them with epinephrine auto injectors, which can only be used after a reaction has started. A new drug call Palforzia may be able to prevent reactions before they happen.

The new drug works using a relatively new method of treatment called oral immunotherapy. Oral immunotherapy works by exposing people to microscopic amounts of an allergen, and gradually increasing the amount of allergen that a patient is exposed to until they can tolerate amounts of the allergen that could have killed them before they underwent the therapy. For Palforzia, the amount starts at 3 milligrams of peanut protein, about 1/100 of a peanut, and gradually works up to 300 milligrams, about the equivalent of one peanut over a period of six months. After the patient is able to tolerate eating the equivalent of two peanuts, they are put on a maintenance dose for six months.

Although many children have successfully completed the therapy in clinical trials, several groups and experts have raised concerns over the safety of Palforzia. According to the data provided by Aimmune, the company that developed the drug, children who use the drug were three times as likely to have an allergic reaction while on the drug then children who did not take the drug. Other experts have also raised concerns that the data provided by Aimmune may be warped, as they omitted the data from patients who had to drop out of the clinical trials because of severe side effects caused by the treatment.

Others have raised concerns over the cost of the drug. Tentative estimates by Aimmune have put the annual cost of the drug at $3,000 to $20,000. While many people might be willing to pay that for the peace of mind that the drug could provide, others have a problem with the fact that the drug is, in effect, a plastic capsule full of peanut flour, which is commercially available under the brand name Baker Jose’s at just about everyone’s local grocery store. Some experts have pointed out that some people may be tempted to buy peanut flour at a store and measure out the 3 milligrams of peanut flour themselves, or, if they are cautious, they could take it to their doctor and have him or her monitor them while they consume the flour. “I think it would be amazing if there was a drug to help children with peanut allergies, but it needs to be sold at a reasonable price,” said Nurse Shores.