The FDA Approved the First-Ever Drug to Treat Children with Peanut Allergies
While the drug will not cure children with peanut allergies, it will reduce their risk of experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction.
There has been a major breakthrough for children suffering from peanut allergies in the United States. On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first-ever drug to treat peanut allergies, and doctors could begin prescribing it in just a few weeks. The treatment is Palforzia, a prepared peanut protein powder that will help train children's bodies to develop a tolerance. That means that if a child who suffers from a peanut allergy was accidentally exposed to the nut, they wouldn't be as likely to experience a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis.
The drug has been approved for children ages four to 17 and has the potential to help an estimated 1.2 million children who suffer from a peanut allergy in the United States. Patients are given a small, daily dose of Palforzia for six months under medical supervision. After the treatment, patients must continue to take Palforzia daily. Within six months, the treatment could help patients develop a tolerance to one peanut and eventually, two to four peanuts. While that may not sound like a huge difference, many children have a severe allergic reaction to just 1/30th of a peanut.
"Peanut allergy affects approximately one million children in the U.S. and only one out of five of these children will outgrow their allergy. Because there is no cure, allergic individuals must strictly avoid exposure to prevent severe and potentially life-threatening reactions," said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
However, Dr. Marks warned that even careful consumers may inadvertently be exposed to peanuts. "Even with strict avoidance, inadvertent exposures can and do occur. When used in conjunction with peanut avoidance, Palforzia provides an FDA-approved treatment option to help reduce the risk of these allergic reactions in children with peanut allergy." At this point, Palforzia will not cure children who suffer from peanut allergies, nor will it allow them to start consuming peanut products. It does, however, have the potential to protect them from life-threatening allergic reactions caused by accidental exposure and cross-contaminated products.