Study demonstrates that once-a-day pill offers relief from ragweed allergy symptoms

An international team of researchers, led by physician-scientists at Johns Hopkins, reports that a once-daily tablet containing a high dose of a key ragweed pollen protein effectively blocks the runny noses, sneezes, nasal congestion and itchy eyes experienced by ragweed allergy sufferers.

Tests showed that treatment with the pill, which contains the protein Ambrosia artemisiifolia major allergen 1, and is placed under the tongue to be absorbed, also reduced the need for anti-allergy drugs to get relief. More than 80 million Americans are allergic to ragweed.

The study is believed to be the first and largest, multicenter, double-blind, randomized controlled trial of its kind to investigate the use of sublingual immunotherapy against ragweed allergy. Begun in April 2010, it was funded by the drug's manufacturer, Merck of Whitehouse Station, N.J.

Results of the trial, published today in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed that overall symptoms and need for such as antihistamines and fell by 27 percent in people who took a pill containing 12 units of the allergen. During peak ragweed season, the roughly two-week period between August and October when are highest, symptoms and medication use dropped 24 percent.

Researchers say that if the pill wins approval from the U.S. , 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," says allergist and lead study investigator Peter Creticos, M.D.

Some 784 men and women from the United States, Canada, Hungary, Russia and the Ukraine volunteered to take part in the year-long study, in which participants were randomly assigned to take either a high-, medium-, or low-dose tablet, or placebo. Neither researchers nor study participants were aware of which dose of the pill or placebo they were taking. Patients kept track of their symptoms and medication use through detailed and daily diaries, which were later scored by researchers for analysis.

"Physicians treating ragweed 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," says Creticos, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Creticos says that no adverse events occurred during the study. The only side effects observed were mild throat irritation, itchy tongue and swollen lips.

Creticos says his team has also begun studies of other non-injectible forms of immunotherapy, including ragweed allergy drops, and treatment applications where the allergen is lightly pricked or inserted into the middle layers of the skin.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Merck: FDA reviewing tablet to eliminate allergy

Mar 27, 2013

Drugmaker Merck & Co. says federal regulators are reviewing its application to sell a new type of treatment for grass pollen allergy that gradually reduces allergy symptoms over time, rather than just temporarily relieving ...

That may not be a cold, could be fall allergies

Sep 25, 2012

(HealthDay)—Many parents complain that as soon as school starts, their child inevitably catches a cold. But, while kids do swap their fair share of germs during the school day, not every runny nose stems ...

Recommended for you

Could trophoblasts be the immune cells of pregnancy?

Dec 18, 2014

Trophoblasts, cells that form an outer layer around a fertilized egg and develop into the major part of the placenta, have now been shown to respond to inflammatory danger signals, researchers from Norwegian University of ...

Moms of food-allergic kids need dietician's support

Dec 18, 2014

Discovering your child has a severe food allergy can be a terrible shock. Even more stressful can be determining what foods your child can and cannot eat, and constructing a new diet which might eliminate entire categories ...

Multiple allergic reactions traced to single protein

Dec 17, 2014

Johns Hopkins and University of Alberta researchers have identified a single protein as the root of painful and dangerous allergic reactions to a range of medications and other substances. If a new drug can ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.