Pill to treat peanut allergies now has federal approval

While this type of treatment has been used by doctors in Boston for years, the FDA approval still has a lot of significance.

BOSTON — A pill to treat peanut allergies now has federal approval.

It’s a big step for people suffering from all allergies. While this type of treatment has been used by doctors in Boston for years, the FDA approval still has a lot of significance.

The important thing to remember is that this is not a cure. People with peanut allergies who use this pill will still be allergic to peanuts, but the idea is if they accidentally come into contact with peanuts, the reaction will not be as severe.

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“It affects every part of your life," said Paul Antico, founder of AllergyEats.com, a website that helps people find allergy-friendy restaurants and ratings.

With three children with food allergies, Antico knows the stress of keeping them safe.

“From shopping to having to read labels to doctor visits and emergency medication and the psychological effects of using a lifesaving medication when your child feels like their throat is closing,” Antico said.

But now, there may be one less worry for some with peanut allergies: a pill has FDA approval for use to prevent some reactions.

Unlike the Epipen, or generic Epinephrine used in emergencies, the pill is taken in three phases over time.

Dr. John Leung, of the Boston Food Allergy Center, says “It works by increasing the threshold of the body to react to peanuts so we start with very low dose and slowly increase the dose."

It’s designed for children ages 4 through 17 who have already been diagnosed with peanut allergies.

At the maximum dose after 22 weeks, it’s like taking the equivalent of a whole peanut every day. “As long as you are taking it, you will be protected,” Leung said.

Leung has been offering this type of treatment to his patients for years, but says the FDA approval is still significant and could lead to better insurance coverage for patients.

Antico says it’s a huge relief.

“We are nowhere near a cure, and this isn’t a cure, but for the first time we have a real, FDA approved option. It’s not suitable for everyone but for those who do it, it can dramatically change their lives and give them some comfort that some accidental exposure. I’ll be OK with that,” Antico said.

Leung uses the same treatment to help patients with dairy, egg and other allergies and hopes treatments for more allergies will come out soon.

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