allergy immunology bw

A New Grass Pollen Allergy Treatment

Newly FDA-approved grass-allergy tablets (Oralair®) could make life a little easier for some of you with allergies. The tablets are a type of immunotherapy, like allergy shots, given to change the immune system and naturally improve your allergy symptoms. They are given under the tongue (sublingual), initially on a daily basis. After an initial dose in the doctor’s office, remaining doses are given at home.

Allergy tablets have been available in Europe for years but are just now making their way to the United States. Some doctors already prescribe allergy drops, mixtures of allergen extract, administered under the tongue, but these drops are not FDA-approved. Until now, the only FDA-approved immunotherapy for allergies has been injections given in a doctor’s office. While local reactions in the mouth or throat can occur with these new under-the-tongue tablets, there appears to be less chance of severe allergic reaction to them versus injections.

Are Allergy Immunotherapy Tablets a Good Option for You or Your Child?

The expectation from tablet manufacturers is that the pills will be more convenient for patients than weekly or monthly trips to the office for allergy shots. This could, in turn, allow more people to receive and benefit from immunotherapy. But before you ask about these tablets, there’s more you should know.

Allergy tablets currently contain only one allergen. For example, the FDA-approved tablet Oralair® contains only grass pollen. Other tablets in the pipeline include another grass pollen-containing tablet, one for ragweed and a dust mite tablet. These single-allergen tablets mean that only one allergen can be treated at a time.

This can benefit people whose symptoms come primarily from one of these allergens. Most allergic individuals, however, are allergic to many different allergens, all of which — unlike in the tablets — can be contained in a single injection or allergy shot. There is also the difficulty of adhering to a daily medication regimen at home, which can be difficult with any prescribed daily medication. Interestingly, studies show that an equal number, about 30 percent, of people continue on allergy shots and tablets after starting their chosen therapy.

Time and experience over the next year now that these tablets are available will give better insight as to who is best treated with shots versus tablets. Talk with your allergist if you think allergy tablets might be a good fit for you.

Amber Patterson, MD
Amber M. Patterson, MD, works in the Section of Allergy and Immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. As a wife and mother of 3, she is passionate about harnessing efficiency to create time. Her current projects to make allergy care more efficient include: researching intralymphatic immunotherapy (a new form of allergy shots), innovating allergy/immunology education, and inventing better ways to test and treat for allergies. Dr. Patterson wants to teach her patients how to feel better quicker and stay healthy longer. The Pattersons enjoy being outdoors (playing, biking, swimming, gardening), reading, and rooting for the Buckeyes. OH-!

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