Desensitization to seasonal allergens in tablet form

Seasonal allergies were particularly harsh for many Quebecers this spring and summer. Despite the use of antihistamines and other medications to alleviate specific symptoms (ex: watery eyes and nasal congestion), some people are still inconvenienced by their allergies. For them, the immunotherapy treatment might be an alternative worth considering. According to a European study, a tablet might replace the injections required by this treatment.

Seasonal allergies were particularly harsh for many Quebecers this spring and summer. Despite the use of antihistamines and other medications to alleviate specific symptoms (ex: watery eyes and nasal congestion), some people are still inconvenienced by their allergies. For them, the immunotherapy treatment might be an alternative worth considering. According to a European study, a tablet might replace the injections required by this treatment.

Allergies are an exaggerated reaction of the immune system against a benign substance (ex: ragweed pollen). Immunotherapy has been successfully used for many years, particularly in the treatment of seasonal allergies. Despite its great efficiency, few people take advantage of it. This desensitization treatment by injections is lengthy and can be quite uncomfortable. Tiny amounts of a particular allergen are injected into the body over a period of time, allowing the immune system to develop a tolerance for it. Under medical supervision, patients receive one injection per week for several months, followed by a monthly injection over a period of many years. With each injection, the patient is exposed to an allergic reaction.

Therefore, a new desensitization treatment could revolutionize the field of Allergology. European researchers have evaluated the efficacy of GRAZAX, a rapidly dissolving grass allergen tablet. They asked 634 adults suffering from grass allergies to take a tablet of GRAZAX or a placebo daily, starting 16 weeks before the beginning of allergy season until the end of the season. Participants had to quantify the intensity of their symptoms on a daily basis. The results are hopeful.

Participants who were taking GRAZAX received a total score, for the intensity of their symptoms, around 30% lower than those who were taking the placebo. They also used their medication against allergy symptoms 33% less often and had more symptom-free and medication-free days than their counterparts. The treatment seemed well tolerated: participants complained of throat irritation, itchiness and swelling in the mouth and ears. No significant allergic reaction was recorded during the study.

GRAZAX has already been approved in Sweden, but not yet in Canada. Further studies will be required to evaluate its long-term effects. We need to know if the benefits persist once the patient stops taking the medication after a few years of treatment, as does immunotherapy treatment by injections.

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