The FDA has approved the first drug to treat peanut allergies

A new drug called Palforzia could help curb dangerous allergic reactions in kids


A newly approved drug offers gradually increasing amounts of peanut protein to children and teenagers to ease peanut allergies.

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A safety net may soon be available to kids with peanut allergies. On January 31, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug aimed at peanut allergies in the United States. The drug, called Palforzia, won’t allow allergic children to chomp PB&J’s, but it may reduce the dangers of unintentional exposure.

A regimen of Palforzia carefully metes out escalating doses of purified peanut powder before arriving at a daily maintenance dose. The method was designed to gradually teach the immune system that peanuts aren’t a threat.

By the end of a recent clinical trial, about two-thirds of 372 children and teenagers could tolerate the amount of peanut protein in approximately two peanuts (SN: 11/18/18). The same was true for only 4 percent of participants who didn’t receive the peanut protein regimen. (In tests on a small number of adults, the drug didn’t seem to help much.)

The drug, made by biopharmaceutical company Aimmune Therapeutics based in Brisbane, Calif., could help severely allergic kids tolerate accidental peanut contact in their daily lives, preventing a serious reaction, or even death. But Palforzia can bring side effects, including anaphylaxis. Some doses are meant to be taken under medical supervision. An estimated 1 million children in the United States have peanut allergies, a number that seems to be increasing. Doctors hope that number will fall with recent advice that encourages parents to feed most babies peanut protein early, between 4 and 6 months of age (SN: 1/13/17).

Laura Sanders is the neuroscience writer. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Southern California.

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