NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE)
Many people have been complaining about their allergies lately, and local allergy specialists are excited about a new treatment designed to manipulate the immune systems of people who have serious allergies.
Ragweed allergy has kicked in and is expected to be brutal in this area. And grass pollen season has not completely tapered off.
“We kind of overlap season,” said Dr. Sanjay Kamboj, M.D., an LSU Health Allergy and Immunology specialist.
“We had a really bad winter. We call it the polar vortex – after that climate change, we had a pollen vortex, so we’re only anticipating that ragweed will be severe, as well,” said Sonia Kamboj, M.D., a West Jefferson Hospital allergist and immunologist. She is no relation to Dr. Sanjay Kamboj.
Ragweed can leave those who are sensitive to it downright miserable.
“Nasal congestion, running nose, sneezing, post nasal drip, eye irritation, the list can go on and on,” said Dr. Sonia Kamboj.
Until recently, people in the United States who could not get relief from their allergies with medications received injections of minute doses of what they are allergic to in order to help their immune systems become less reactive to the perceived irritants.
Now the Food and Drug Administration has approved immune-therapy pills.
“It dissolves right under the tongue,” Dr. Sonia Kamboj said as she held the pills.
But unlike the specially mixed serums used for the shots, the pills have been approved for only a handful of allergens.
“They are FDA approved for only three tablets, two are approved for grass pollen allergy, one is called Oralair which has a mixture of five different kinds of grasses, another one is called Grastek which two multi-grass, and there is another tablet which is for ragweed,” said Dr. Sanjay Kamboj.
He said pills should be taken well in advance of the start of allergy season.
“Ideally, it’s supposed to be started 12 weeks before the start of the ragweed season,” he said.
The pills are not for all allergy sufferers.
“Allergy immunotherapy shots do offer the best results and are the most comprehensive,” said Dr. Sonia Kamboj.
“So if somebody is allergic to tree pollens and grass pollens, they will still require immunotherapy [shots] for tree pollens,” said Dr. Sanjay Kamboj.
And the pills need to be taken daily while shots are weekly at the outset, and normally monthly for many patients.
“It is a new, branded product, so they can be more expensive,” said Dr. Sonia Kamboj.
Still, both doctors call the pills promising.
Because severe reactions can also result from immune-therapy pills, doctors also prescribe Epi-pens for patients.
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