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What will palforzia do for peanut allergy sufferers?

It is expected that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will approve a new drug that treats peanut allergies in children in January. The drug, developed by a California-based startup called Aimmune Therapeutics, is Palforzia. It would be the first ever drug that the U.S. approves for treating food allergies. If it reaches the market, Palforzia will be taken by relevant patients daily as a type of oral immunotherapy. The drug was

Oral immunotherapies work by exposing patients to a small amount of the allergen to which they are allergic to enable their immune systems to learn that these molecules are harmless. This exposure allows the immune system to stop needlessly overreacting to the allergen.

Palforzia treatment would involve ingesting small doses of peanut protein and increasing the dose over the course of months. According to researchers, this therapy would eventually allow patients to be “biteproof,” meaning that if they accidentally ate a small amount of peanut, they would likely not endure as serious of an adverse reaction as they would have before the Palforzia treatment.

There are a few caveats associated with Palforzia. Importantly, it is not a cure for peanut allergies. It may also produce side effects and may not be effective in all peanut allergy sufferers. Some experts also argue that Palforzia is no different from the oral immunotherapy that many clinicians already employ. They worry that the drug will simply provide a costlier version of a solution that is already in place. Indeed, patients or healthcare providers can purchase peanut flour at a very low cost. Though there are speculations that the drug will be quite expensive, the company’s CEO has said that no price will be set until after the FDA has approved Palforzia.

On the other side of the argument, though, are those who say that Palforzia offers a way to standardize the process of oral immunotherapy. Peanut substances purchased from supermarkets differ in how much peanut protein they contain, with the amounts not always calculable for consumers. It can therefore be difficult to control and track the amount of peanut protein patients are exposed to when oral immunotherapy regimens involve store-bought items.

Another major benefit of Palforzia is that it could reduce the anxiety of patients and their families, helping them to feel like they have some control over the status of their allergy and options for addressing the allergy issue. Time will tell if Palforzia will indeed become available, and if so, what the impact will be on the food allergy community.

Dr. Summit Shah

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