Allergy pills that really work, are highly sought after by those with seasonal allergies, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying to provide relief for sufferers with some newly approved drugs. Oralair, Grastek, and Ragwitek are the latest pills of their kind to hit the market this month.
Oralair was recently approved by the FDA to treat allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, that is caused by specific grass pollens. Symptoms cause itchy and watery eyes, itchy, runny nose, repetitive sneezing, and nasal congestion. This drug is for people ages 10 to 65 years-old and is a sublingual, or under the tongue, pill that contains an allergen extract. Currently, the first dose is given at the physician’s office so the patient can be monitored for potential adverse reactions to the drug. If none are present, then the drug can be taken at home. It is taken once daily, and dissolves under the tongue. Like shots taken for allergies, the medicine takes several months to become effective. Ideally, Oralair is started four months before allergy season, and continues throughout it. It is also a type of immunotherapy, which is the act of exposing small amounts of the allergen to the patient’s system to decrease sensitivity to it. According to studies, over the course of one grass pollen season, treatment with Oralair brought a 16 to 30 percent reduction in symptoms. It also reduced the need for other medications.
Allergy sufferers looking for some relief could also try Grastek, another pill newly approved by the FDA. It also treats sufferers of hay fever brought on by grass pollens. Once the tablet is dissolved, very small doses of timothy grass extract are put into the user’s system. Grastek is cross reactive, meaning that although it only contains one grass, it can treat other grass allergies too. Kentucky blue, sweet vernal, red top, perennial rye, and orchard, are other grass allergies that can be treated by the drug. Grastek was successful in late-stage trials, reducing allergy symptoms by 20 percent in patients. Grastek can be used in children as young as 5 years-old and up to people aged 65. Merck will be marketing the drug toward the end of the month with partner ALK-abello.
FDA approval was very recently announced for Merck’s latest allergy pill Ragwitek. This is another sublingual immunotherapy pill, used to treat allergies to short ragweed pollen. Ragwitek should be taken 12 weeks before ragweed season. The first dose should be administered at the doctor’s office, so the patient can be monitored for 30 minutes for adverse reactions to it. This drug is for patients between ages 18 and 65. There was some controversy among those on the FDA advisory panel, because the pivotal trials did not include anyone over the age of 51. Some members didn’t feel like there was enough sufficient evidence for the older patients. Pediatric use was not studied for Ragwitek.
These pills could possibly provide an alternative to those allergy sufferers that have to get weekly to monthly shots at a clinic. Since the extreme cold system, or polar vortex, that spent so much time over the U.S. this past winter has caused a multiple types of pollen to flood the air all at once, people are suffering even more. This caused what people are calling the “pollen vortex.” According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America there are 25 million people with asthma, and 45 million with nasal allergies in the U.S. That is a very high number of people who could experience exacerbated problems due to the “pollen vortex.”
The FDA approval for these new allergy pills comes just a little late for this season’s sufferers, but they can still provide relief in the future. Those who have to get shots to treat seasonal allergies may have a hopeful alternative to getting pricked numerous times a month. Also, the millions of people who suffer from asthma and allergies may soon find more relief as well.
By Twanna Harps