We all know how much damage a little piece of peanut can do to a person with a peanut allergy. Severe allergic reactions from peanuts are relatively rare but are difficult to predict.
While allergists usually suggest avoidance after diagnosing peanut allergy, it is clear that avoidance is not the only solution and accidental exposure is common. Symptoms after accidentally eating a peanut when you are allergic may include itchy mouth, widespread hives, vomiting, and respiratory distress. Without prompt medical intervention, there is the possibility of a severe outcome.
Fortunately, a promising treatment that could lessen the severity of allergic reactions to peanuts is now approved by the Food and Drug Administration. On September 23, 2019, Allergenic Products Advisory Committee (APAC) convened by the U.S. FDA voted to support the use of PALFORZIA in children and teens with peanut allergy.
This brings hope for children, teens and their families who live with the profound daily impact of peanut allergy.
What is PALFORZIA?
PALFORZIA, formerly known as AR101, is the brand name of an oral immunotherapy (OIT) that could prevent, or at least mitigate, life-threatening peanut allergies due to accidental exposure. This includes anaphylaxis, which can cause impaired breathing, swelling of the throat, and a sudden drop in blood pressure.
This therapy, in the form of capsules or foil-laminate sachets, is controlled to ensure minimal variability of allergen content across doses of a given strength. The product was developed by Aimmune Therapeutics and is intended to treat children ages 4 to 17 that have been diagnosed with a peanut allergy.
The results of the clinical trials are impressive. Nearly 80% of patients who took PALFORZIA for a year, which included a maintenance period of six months, were able to withstand 600 milligrams of peanut protein without experiencing major side effects. Many of those who continued taking PALFORZIA as part of another trial were able to tolerate even higher doses.
How Does PALFORZIA Work?
The treatment involves exposure to tiny amounts of peanut powder, in increasing doses. The patient visits the clinic every two weeks to have their dose gradually increased under the supervision of an allergist. Active treatment occurs for approximately six months or longer until the immune system tolerates an appreciable amount of peanut protein. Desensitization is maintained by continuing to take a daily therapeutic dose.
Therapy does not give allergic individuals the ability to eat peanuts at will, but it decreases the frequency and severity of an allergic reaction in the case of accidental ingestion. This treatment provides an allergic person and their family with peace of mind that accidentally eating a peanut-containing food, will be unlikely to cause a life-threatening body-wide reaction.
PALFORZIA Treatment Requires Medical Supervision
This treatment regimen does not come without risks and does not work for everyone. Therapy should be started under experienced physician supervision, and never initiated at home.
PALFORZIA treatment should be started by a certified allergist in a facility with appropriate medications and equipment to treat allergic reactions.
The purpose of the treatment is not to cure peanut allergy, but to provide a safeguard against unsuspected exposure and increase the quality of life. By increasing the level of peanut tolerance, therapy prevents serious and life-threatening reactions to accidental ingestion and provides greater peace of mind to those with peanut allergies and their families.