Researchers have found that two-thirds of peanut-allergic children participating in a study were able to consume the equivalent of two peanuts without any symptoms after completing an experimental treatment regiment that lasted for months. The results of the study were published on Nov. 18 in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s Annual Scientific Meeting.
According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Brian Vickery, the new treatment is not a cure. It does not make the allergy go away in any sense or allow children with a peanut allergy to eat whatever they want.
However, as 7.6% of American children have at least one food allergy, Dr. Vickery admits that this discovery is no small feat. Currently, there are no treatment options for food allergies of any kind, especially for any kind of peanut allergy, that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Tree nut allergies alone affect about 3 million Americans of all ages.
California-based biopharmaceutical company Aimmune Therapeutics Inc. made the experimental treatment and is planning to submit an application for marketing approval to the FDA this December. The FDA has already categorized the treatment as qualified for an expedited approval process. According to Vickery, while the treatment proved effective primarily with children, he expects that adults would benefit in similar ways.
As of 2016, 5.3% of children aged 12 to 17 years has food allergies in the past year. The study used the experimental therapy on a similar age group. A total of 10 countries recruited 554 participants with a peanut allergy who ranged in age between four and 55, but 496 of those participants were between the ages of four and 17.
The treatment is an oral immunotherapy, as it comes in a powder-filled capsule. That powder is essentially peanut powder, as the idea behind the treatment is to gradually expose patients to the same thing they are allergic to.
Giving patients an opportunity to successfully treat their food allergy can be life-changing. For children especially, it means that they can lead more normal lives and not have to take precautions that allergy-free children do not. Allergic reactions can be so severe that sufferers may need hospitalized and run the risk of dying from exposure. These dangers have even led to the prevalence of food allergy lawsuits under the umbrella of personal injury cases, 96% of which are settled pre-trial.
In a food allergy lawsuit, any number of different parties could be liable for injuries. They typically involve the mistake of a patron being served the wrong food dish that contains a food to which they are allergic. Parties that can be liable for injuries include hospital staff, restaurant workers and owners, kitchen staff at nursing homes, and food staff on airlines.
In an effort to curb allergic reactions and these associated potential lawsuits, Vickery hopes that the treatment will be made available within a year. He has even been informing patients that he expects the treatment will be available by late next summer.