Food Allergies Could Become Less Scary With New Drug

Parents of children with nut allergies could be breathing a sigh of relief.

Whether it's making special requests at restaurants or paying extremely close attention to the ingredients lists while grocery shopping, living with multiple food allergies can be a challenge. However, NPR reports that a new drug recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration may protect against the worst reactions to those allergens.

The new drug, called Xolair, is meant to help reduce the effects of a severe allergic reaction if someone is accidentally exposed to allergens such as milk, eggs, or nuts. For the drug to work, a person first has to take it for a few weeks to lessen their allergic reaction over time; the medication is administered by injection every two to four weeks. It's not a cure, and it's certainly not meant to be taken as an immediate antidote in the moment of an allergic reaction, but for those with severe allergies, it's a step in the right direction.

"While it will not eliminate food allergies or allow patients to consume food allergens freely, its repeated use will help reduce the health impact if accidental exposure occurs," Kelly Stone of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research told NPR.

As with most medicines, there are potential side effects to taking the drug, and its price tag is pretty steep as well. Fever might occur, and it's possible users will experience a reaction at the injection site. Xolair can also possibly cause anaphylaxis, the exact allergic reaction the drug is meant to help prevent, so supervision during its use is recommended. Xolair is priced at $2,900 a month for children and $5,000 a month for adults, but the Associated Press notes these prices would be reduced by insurance coverage.

The medication was previously used to treat asthma brought on by allergies, as well as chronic hives and chronic inflammatory sinus disease. Some studies have shown that taking Xolair has helped people better tolerate foods they're allergic to over time.

A study conducted by Dr. Robert Wood, director of the pediatric allergy division at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, showed that Xolair allowed about 68% of participants with peanut allergies to tolerate around 600 milligrams, or about a half teaspoon, of peanut protein. Of those who did not receive an injection of Xolair, only 6% could tolerate the peanuts.

Although the medication is not a cure for allergies, it could help those who are constantly on alert for potential triggers. Surely some parents out there will be breathing a sigh of relief as Xolair hits the market.