No More Needles? UW Ragweed Allergy Study Shows Tongue Drops Effective

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MADISON - Ragweed allergy sufferers, take heart - you may be one step closer to ditching your allergy shots.


The results of a multi-center study that included the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health have shown that oral allergy drops, delivered under the tongue, could be a safe and effective alternative to controlling ragweed pollen allergies.


"These are preliminary steps we're taking in examining a new therapy," says Dr. Robert Bush, an emeritus professor of medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and one of the study's co-investigators. "But while the drops haven't been subjected to rigorous clinical trials in the United States yet, the results of this study are quite encouraging."


Europeans have been using what's known sublingual allergen immunotherapy (SLIT) for years, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve its use in this country, except for research and clinical trials.


Many patients prefer it because they can self-administer the drops at home - and, of course, because the therapy doesn't involve painful needles and shots. Physicians, meanwhile, like SLIT because it appears to carry less risk of patients developing anaphylaxis, a serious reaction to allergy shots.


Madison was one of four U.S. cities to participate in the 115-patient SLIT study. (Pittsburgh, Iowa City and Evansville, Ind., were the others.) Patients were given sublingual drops over the course of a ragweed pollen season, and monitored and recorded their symptoms. Study results showed that symptom frequency decreased for those who were given high doses of the medication, as did the need to take additional medication.


Dr. Bush says the therapy seems to work best in patients who react to a single allergen-such as ragweed pollen-rather than several.


"We don't yet know how long people need to be treated with sublingual drops, or the proper dose levels yet," says Bush. "But it's clear there's a lot of interest in this therapy."


The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 

Date Published: 02/17/2010

News tag(s):  ouruwhealthallergyresearch

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