Health Minute: New peanut allergy treatment


An estimated 3 million Americans live with a peanut or tree nut allergy, putting them at risk of accidental exposure that could be life-threatening. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests promising results for an allergy treatment in the works.

A peanut powder-filled capsule could be the key to treating peanut allergies, gradually exposing people with allergies to allergens could reduce their risk of a severe reaction. Researchers across 10 countries studied 551 participants with peanut allergies between age four and 55.

Three-quarters of the participants received increasing doses of the experimental treatment, the rest received a placebo. Side effects pushed 11% of the participants to drop out of the study.

After a year, each remaining participant took an exit challenge, eating the equivalent of two peanuts under a doctor’s supervision. Two thirds of child participants tolerated the challenge without a severe reaction. 

Half of those actually tolerated twice as much, a four-peanut dose. 10% of children receiving treatment required an epi-pen during the exit challenge. 53% of the placebo group required an epi-pen during the exit challenge.

Experts warn this isn’t a cure for allergies, patients receiving treatment shouldn’t expect to be able to eat whatever they want. But researchers believe increasing tolerance for peanuts can reduce the risk of a severe reaction. 

Aimmune Therapeutics Inc., the California-based maker of the treatment, will submit an application for marketing approval in December. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has designated the treatment as worthy of an expedited approval process.

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