New Study in AAAAI Journal JACI Asks: Can Allergy Immunotherapy Prevent Asthma?

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Dresden study shows significantly lower rates of asthma in immunotherapy patients

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Researchers in Dresden, Germany, have demonstrated that allergy immunotherapy can effectively prevent asthma in patients with allergic rhinitis in a realistic setting.

Doctors reviewed routine healthcare data from German National Health Insurance beneficiaries which helped them identify a cohort of about 118,754 patients who chronically suffered from allergy symptoms but did not have asthma. This means they had not been previously diagnosed with asthma, did not have documented physician contacts due to asthma symptoms and did not have prescriptions filled for corticosteroids. They used this information to track new appearances of asthma between 2007-2012 and compared patients who had been treated with immunotherapy against those who had never been exposed to immunotherapy.

“Counts and percentages were calculated for each confounding, outcome and exposure variable,” Jochen Schmitt, MD, MPH, said. “We discovered that allergy immunotherapy being used in routine clinical care effectively prevents the onset of asthma. Most pronounced preventive effects were observed for subcutaneous immunotherapy, immunotherapy containing native allergens, and immunotherapy administered for at least three years.”

Patients with allergic rhinitis are at increased risk for the development of asthma. Allergy immunotherapy is one method of treating allergic rhinitis and it’s recognized in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration in two forms. The first is subcutaneous immunotherapy or allergy shots. The second is sublingual immunotherapy or allergy tablets. Both are forms of long-term treatment that decrease symptoms for many people with allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, conjunctivitis (eye allergy) or stinging insect allergy. They work to decrease sensitivity to allergens and often lead to lasting relief of allergy symptoms, even after treatment has ended.

In total, 2,431 patients had been exposed to allergy immunotherapy (2% of the cohort). The risk of incident asthma was significantly lower in these patients – only 33 out of 1,646 patients who had a new diagnosis of asthma were exposed to immunotherapy. Patients with asthma also received, on average, higher doses of antihistamines and had more physician contact due to allergic rhinitis or allergy symptoms.

“In patients with allergic rhinitis, allergy immunotherapy should be considered to prevent asthma. By reducing the primary risks for developing asthma, we can directly address and improve the burden of the disease for the patients and present significant cost savings for the healthcare system,” Schmitt concluded.

More information on asthma and immunotherapy is available at the AAAAI website. This study was accepted in September and currently appears as an article in press in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 6,800 members in the United States, Canada and 72 other countries. The AAAAI’s Find an Allergist/Immunologist service is a trusted resource to help you find a specialist close to home.


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Melissa Graham, Media & Member Communications Manager
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