Oral immunotherapy tablets help grass allergy sufferers, Allegheny General Hospital study finds

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Both Adults and kids with Timothy Grass allergy saw improvement in symptoms with under-the-tongue tablets as an alternative to allergy shots.

A tablet administered under the tongue successfully controlled allergic rhinoconjunctivitis symptoms in adults and children without the need for injections, according to research presented by David Skoner, MD, of Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

In the AGH study, adults receiving oral immunotherapy for Timothy grass pollen allergy showed 15 percent improvements in nasal symptoms and 25 percent improvement in eye symptoms. Children in the study saw improvements of 23 percent for nasal symptoms and 28 percent for eye symptoms.

“We observed effective management of allergy symptoms even when pollen counts were at the highest of levels,” said Dr. Skoner, who serves as Director of AGH’s Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “Oral immunotherapy is proving to be a new and effective tool to help patients control their allergy symptoms and experience a better quality of life during allergy season.”

Up to 10 percent of Americans suffer from allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, battling symptoms such as sneezing, itching and runny nose that can become severe. Red, itchy and watering eyes are the most common complaint, and grass pollen, including Timothy grass, is one of the most common allergens. Traditional injection treatments can be painful, ineffective and difficult to administer, particularly for younger patients.

Dr. Skoner and AGH colleague Deborah Gentile, MD, have been pioneers in the development of oral immunotherapy for allergy sufferers. The sublingual (under-the-tongue) pills can be taken in the patient’s home without the need to visit the doctor’s office for allergy shots, leading to greater compliance and better symptom relief.

The adult trial included 439 patients and the pediatric trial 345 patients ages 5-17. Participants received oral immunotherapy or a placebo beginning 16 weeks before the start of the grass pollen allergy season and continuing throughout the season. They recorded their symptoms daily in an electronic diary.

No serious adverse effects or cases of anaphylaxis, a rapid-onset allergic reaction that is sometimes fatal, were detected in any of the study participants.
“The demonstrated safety of the oral immunotherapy approach in our study is very encouraging news, as adverse reactions have occurred with immunotherapy injections,” Dr. Skoner said.

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