Ragweed Allergies Treated With New Once-A-Day Pill
May 8, 2013

New Pill Could Provide Relief From Ragweed Allergy Symptoms

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A once-a-day pill containing high levels of a specific ragweed pollen protein has proven effective in relieving the symptoms experienced by those allergic to the flowering plants, claims new research published Tuesday in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Tests conducted by an international team of experts discovered that treatment with the drug, which contained protein Ambrosia artemisiifolia major allergen 1, helped block runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy eyes typically experienced by ragweed allergy sufferers. Their work also demonstrated that the pill, which is placed under a person´s tongue in order to be absorbed, reduced the need for anti-allergy drugs for symptom relief.

According to the researchers, this is the first and largest multicenter, double-blind, randomized, controlled trial of its kind to analyze the effectiveness of sublingual immunotherapy in dealing with ragweed allergy symptoms.

The study, which began in April 2010 and was funded by the pharmaceutical company Merck (which produces the medication being tested), showed a 27 percent decrease in overall symptoms and the need for antihistamines and other anti-allergy medications in those who took a pill containing 12 units of the allergen, the researchers said.

“During peak ragweed season, the roughly two-week period between August and October when pollen counts are highest, symptoms and medication use dropped 24 percent,” they added. “If the pill wins approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, it could serve as a more convenient, less painful option than weekly or monthly allergy shots. The pill also presents fewer potential side effects than allergen injections.”

“Our results show this oral tablet for ragweed allergy is highly effective and well-tolerated, and offers considerable relief from what many allergy sufferers consider the most agonizing part of the year,” lead study investigator Dr. Peter Creticos, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Nearly 800 men and women from the US, Canada, Hungary, Russia and the Ukraine participated in the year-long study. Each of them were randomly assigned to take either a placebo, or one of three different strengths (low, medium, or high) of the tablet being tested. Neither the subjects nor the researchers themselves knew which dose of the pill or placebo each participant was taking, and the patients kept track of their symptoms and medication use through journals that were later reviewed by the researchers.

“Physicians treating ragweed allergy sufferers may soon have an alternative to the current approach to managing ragweed allergy, which usually involves weekly or monthly visits to the doctor's office for allergy shots and carries the risk of swelling and pain at the injection site, plus risk of anaphylactic shock,” Creticos said.

No major adverse side-effects occurred during the study, the Johns Hopkins professor said, though mild throat irritation, itchy tongue and swollen lips were observed in some patients. Creticos also said that he and his colleagues have begun studies focused on other forms of treatment for the condition, including ragweed allergy drops and one method that will involve inserting a small amount of the allergen into the middle layers of the skin.