When you have a child with a peanut allergy, you develop an eagle-eye for cross-contamination. If someone is making a PB&J sandwich, you watch the knife go from the jar of peanut butter to the bread and from the counter to the sink. You know just how important it is to keep track of every single spoonful, crumb and speck of peanut dust.
Food allergies can be extremely scary—but there’s good news for kids with peanut allergies. On January 31, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Palforzia, the first drug in the US designed to reduce allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.
“Peanut allergy affects approximately one million children in the US and only one out of five of these children will outgrow their allergy. Because there is no cure, allergic individuals must strictly avoid exposure to prevent severe and potentially life-threatening reactions,” said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “Even with strict avoidance, inadvertent exposures can and do occur. When used in conjunction with peanut avoidance, Palforzia provides an FDA-approved treatment option to help reduce the risk of these allergic reactions in children with peanut allergy.”
Designed to teach kids’ immune systems that peanuts aren’t a threat, Palforzia is given in three different phases: the Initial Dose Escalation phase, given on a single day; The Up-Dosing phase, which consists of 11 increasing dose levels given over the course of several months, and finally Maintenance. The first two phases are administered under the supervision of a healthcare professional in case of severe allergic reactions. Palforzia is manufactured from peanuts and during the Dose Escalation and Up-Dosing phases, is mixed with semi-solid food like applesauce, yogurt or pudding.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted with approximately 500 peanut-allergic individuals, more than two-thirds of Palforzia recipients could tolerate the peanut protein given in the challenge, compared to just 4 percent of placebo recipients. The drug can also have side effects, including anaphylaxis, and is intended for ages 4-17 with a diagnosed allergy.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like kids with allergies will be able to eat peanuts anytime soon. However, decreasing the chance of your kid having side effects from an accidental peanut exposure sounds like a step in the right direction.