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Asthma drug sanctioned for serious food allergies

Food allergies for products like milk, eggs, walnuts and peanuts could be more easily tolerated with a drug newly approved by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

The medication – Xolair, developed and co-promoted by Genentech and Novartis – helps reduce severe allergic reactions brought on by accidental exposure to certain foods. It is considered the first medication approved by the FDA that can help protect against multiple food allergies.

NPR reports that the medication is not intended for use during an allergic reaction. Instead, it is designed to be taken repeatedly every few weeks to help reduce the risk of reactions over time.

The FDA said people taking the drug should continue to avoid foods to which they are allergic.

“While it will not eliminate food allergies or allow patients to consume food allergens freely, its repeated use will help reduce the health impact if accidental exposure occurs,” said Kelly Stone from the FDA’s Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Some of the most common side effects include fever and a reaction to the injection site. The drug also warns that the medication itself can trigger anaphylaxis. Genentech and Novartis advise that a healthcare provider monitors a person who is starting to use Xolair.

The cost of the medication is not cheap: it ranges from $2 900 a month for children and $5 000 a month for adults, though the cost could be brought down with insurance.

There is no current cure for food allergies.

Xolair has already been approved by the FDA to treat some cases of persistent asthma triggered by allergies, chronic hives and chronic inflammatory sinus disease with nasal polyps.

The drug is administered by injection every two or four weeks. Over time, it has proven to help some people tolerate foods they are allergic to, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

In a trial with 168 patients who were allergic to peanuts and at least two other foods, 68% of people who took Xolair for four to five months were able to consume about 2.5 peanuts without symptoms like body hives, persistent coughing or vomiting.

The trial also found that Xolair was effective after four to five months in 67% of people allergic to eggs; 66% of people allergic to milk; and 42% of people allergic to cashews. These results were based on small amounts of each food – a quarter of an egg, two tablespoons of 1% milk and 3.5 cashews.


NPR article – FDA approves a drug to treat severe food allergies, including milk, eggs and nuts (Open access)


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Only half of patients use life-saving epinephrine injectors


FDA inaction despite asthma drug link to suicide


Approval for first medical Tx for children with peanut allergies in 2019


Large US study confirms ‘allergic march’ in children





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