A new drug, but not a new treatment, for peanut allergies
The media have been reporting on a potential new treatment for severe peanut allergies. The drug, known only as AR101, has not yet been approved by the FDA, but may be by the end of the year.
It’s basically a capsule with a bit of peanut flour, and it works by gradually desensitizing the patient to the protein in peanuts that causes the allergic reaction.
Desensitization (immunotherapy) has been a common treatment for all kinds of allergies for decades.
Another company is working on a skin patch to treat peanut allergies in a similar way, but it hasn’t received FDA approval, either.
Even if approved, these drugs won’t cure a peanut allergy. However, treatment might prevent the most life-threatening allergic reaction—anaphylaxis—and that would improve the lives of many children and their parents.
All new drugs come with hefty price tags, unfortunately, so I will be watching with interest to see how much AR101 (or whatever they end up calling it) will cost.
I’m more excited by the studies over the last few years that suggest we can prevent allergies in children. How? Simply by letting them explore their environment, get dirty, and try new things.
Below is a post I wrote about this a couple of years ago.
The rise of childhood allergies
(Orignially published May, 2015)
For some time, it’s seemed to me that the incidence of childhood allergies, especially serious ones like peanut allergies, have been on the increase.
Food labels carry warnings about possible peanut contamination; schools ban snacks or sack lunches containing peanuts; some airlines have designated “peanut-free” zones. It’s crazy and disturbing. And do you know how much an Epi-Pen costs??
Aaron Carroll, MD, the pediatrician who blogs at The Incidental Economist has a good post on the subject: By shielding infants from stuff, we may be making allergies worse
Since 2000, pediatricians have advised parents to limit or eliminate possible allergy-causing foods from their infants’ diets in the hope of avoiding serious food allergies.
But Dr. Carroll quotes a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that basically says “Think again.”
[The NEJM] says that keeping peanuts away from infants may be making things worse.
In other words, exposing kids to peanuts, even those with a sensitivity, led to fewer allergies. Conversely, not exposing them led to more allergies.
I have friends who will already have lost their minds hearing about this. I mean, letting kids get exposed to peanuts? Especially kids with a sensitivity to peanuts already? Insane, right?
We’re seeing an alarming increase in peanut allergies worldwide. Our response appears to be making things worse. Time to change our behavior here.
Then there was an interesting article on Live Science: Children Have Fewer Allergies When Families Do Dishes By Hand
Researchers in Sweden found that children living in families that hand-washed their dishes were about 40 percent less likely to develop allergies compared with kids in homes that used a dishwasher…
The researchers said they suspect that hand-washing dishes doesn’t get them as clean as the dishwasher does, which is actually a good thing because it can help protect against allergies by exposing family members to more bacteria.
This theory, which I’ve heard before and thought reasonable, maintains that kids need to be exposed to more allergens at an early age to help their immune systems develop appropriately.
It’s also been suggested that the prevalence of antibacterial hand soaps and other triclosan-containing products has contributed to the rise in childhood allergies.
Related post: Is triclosan in soap and toothpaste safe?
It seems kids don’t need to be over-protected from most dirt and germs, and our first-world obsession with cleanliness might actually be doing more harm than good.
Food for thought.