There's some amazing news for parents of kiddos with peanut allergies. The FDA has approved the first-ever drug aimed at treating the issue, and it could be life-changing for families that live in fear of accidental exposure.
The drug, called Palforzia, is available for kids ages 4 through 17 with a confirmed peanut allergy. It contains a powder made from peanuts that you sprinkle over and mix into your child's food (think something like yogurt or applesauce). Over time, the amount is increased, allowing children to build up a tolerance. The FDA noted that in the testing phase, about 67% of patients who had taken Palforzia were able to tolerate a 600mg dose of protein powder without serious side effects.
If you've got a child with a peanut allergy, or if your child is in a school or daycare where peanuts are banned, you know how terrifying the side effects can be. For some kids, even the tiniest amount of exposure can have life-threatening consequences. Kylie Jenner recently shared with Harper's Bazaar that her home is completely nut-free due to 2-year-old Stormi's allergy. The toddler spent a day in the hospital last year due to an allergic reaction of some sort, according to People.
As scary as a trip to the hospital is, in the most serious cases, peanut exposure can kill. It can send kids into anaphylaxis which can cause your airway to constrict and your blood pressure to drop dangerously low. There's still a risk of anaphylaxis while taking Palforzia, so the FDA has ruled that the initial doses can only be given in a healthcare setting where a patient's reaction can be closely monitored.
Taking Palforzia doesn't mean children can start stuffing their faces with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Reese's Pieces—they'll still need to avoid peanuts. But for the one million American kids who deal with peanut allergies, it's a huge step forward—especially since many of them will have the allergy their entire lives.
"Only 1 out of 5 of these children will outgrow their allergy," according to Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. As one teen Palforzia user told USA Today, the new drug is like a "security blanket," letting kids—and their worried parents—breathe a little easier.
The company behind Palforzia, Aimmune Therapeutics, expects that doctors will be able to start prescribing the drug mere weeks from now. The treatment is set to cost just under $900, but will of course depend on a person's insurance.
According to Allergic Living, "the company says it will offer a co-pay program to families who, in consultation with their doctor, want to pursue the treatment," but the existence of Palforzia as an FDA-approved treatment bodes well for allergy sufferers.
Right now insurance codes for oral immunotherapy are practically non-existent and patients often pay out of pocket. As NPR reports, having an FDA-approved product for oral immunotherapy could change this rapidly. David Stukus, a pediatric allergist at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told NPR the development of codes could "improve reimbursement for all patients, especially those receiving Medicaid."