New Peanut Allergy Drug to be Released in 2018
Peanut Allergy Incidence
Around 5.4 million people suffer from peanut allergies in the United States and Europe alone. Among those with peanut allergies are millions of children, who, along with their parents, have to deal with the anxiety that comes with these allergies on a daily basis. Peanuts are the biggest culprits for food allergies, with approximately 8% of American children being diagnosed with the allergy. As a society, we are impacted not only by the death that can result from severe allergies and anaphylactic reactions but also by the reduced quality of life associated with dealing with such allergies. The psychological impact of allergies on patients and their families can lead to severe anxiety and antisocial behavior.
The incidence of this specific allergy does not seem to be declining, or even remaining steady. Instead, one study shows that four times more children had peanut allergies by 2010 than in 1997. Another pair of studies, conducted in the Unites States and The United Kingdom, shows that in the past five years, peanut allergies have doubled in kids younger than five years of age.
Today, between 150 and 200 deaths occur each year in the United States as a result of peanut allergies, and around 125,000 emergency room visits result from allergic reactions related to peanuts. It is possible for children to outgrow their peanut allergies, but research suggests that this occurs only about 20% of the time. Though the number of individuals with peanut allergies may not be improving, medical interventions to improve outcomes associated with these allergies seem to be.
A pharmaceutical company based in France has developed a drug (Viaskin Peanut) that may offer a solution for the families impacted by the growing incidence of peanut allergies and improve the economic impact of these allergies on our healthcare system.
Viaskin Peanut, created by DBV Technologies, is delivered in the form of a patch and has been accepted into the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s expedited approval program. The program, also known as a fast-track program, has less stringent testing requirements for allowing drugs onto the market.
What this means for consumers is reduced waiting time before they can access the drug. Viaskin Peanut should begin Phase III trials this year and become available in the United States in early 2018. It has already been shown that some peanut allergy patients using the patch can eat about four peanuts without suffering allergic consequences.
DBV Technologies is not the only company attempting to create products that can help people who are allergic to peanuts. A United States company, Aimmune Therapeutics, which used to be called the Allergen Research Corporation, is developing a drug, AR101, which would be offered in pill form to desensitize patients to peanuts. Like DBV Technologies, Aimmune Therapeutics has also been accepted into the fast-track approval program by the FDA and plans to start Phase III trials before the end of 2015. Aimmune Therapeutics is also looking into creating interventions for other types of food allergies.
Treating Peanut Allergies
How do these new solutions addressing peanut allergies work? Unlike conventional treatment options, like antihistamines and EpiPens, which aim to reduce the effects of an immune reaction on the body, effectively minimizing the symptoms associated with severe allergic reactions, Viaskin Peanut and AR101 attempt to intervene much earlier along in the process of an allergic reaction. These drugs introduce small amounts of peanut products to the patient, with the goal of desensitizing the patient’s immune system to peanuts. In other words, rather than intervening in the immune reaction, these new drugs are designed to prevent the reaction from occurring in the first place. This strategy for dealing with allergies is known as immunotherapy and is growing in popularity.
The Future of Peanut Allergies
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to warn that there is no cure for food allergies. Though the drugs currently being tested and potentially commercialized may improve things for peanut allergy sufferers, they do not claim to cure patients of their allergies or to 100% prevent or stop immune reactions to peanuts. Thus, even if these drugs do soon hit shelves, doctors are likely to continue to recommend that those with peanut allergies take precautions for preventing exposure to these nuts, particularly high-dose exposures. Such exposure can occur, for instance, when prescription drugs containing peanut oil are ingested. Nonetheless, if these drugs are able to minimize the adverse impact of peanut allergies, they are likely to significantly improve millions of lives.