New Treatments for Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis Presented at a Mount Sinai conference

I just attended this Saturday an all-day conference devoted to the latest research findings on food allergy diagnostics and treatment. Food allergy is definitely on the rise and a frightening problem for families afflicted with this condition. A recent report in the Journal of Allergy and Immunology in 2008 reported 54,000cases of food allergies in the U.S. - up from 32,000 the year before. The most frustrating thing for families and doctors is that there are no approved treatments for patients with severe food allergies-except avoidance.

The conference at Mount Sinai presented exciting new data that hope for children and adults with food allergies is on the near horizon. Several studies were presented that showed effectiveness using oral immunotherapy to treat milk, egg and peanut allergy. The treatments worked in many of the patients, however there were common adverse reactions (45%) in doing the immunotherapy. In contrast to the oral immunotherapy (the product is swallowed), sublingual immunotherapy was used in a peanut, hazelnut and peach study. These studies did show varying degrees of effectiveness. Dr. Hugh Sampson also presented data on a Chinese Herbal Formula his group is working on to prevent food allergy reactions and this looks very exciting; they have had success in animal models and are now starting to recruit for human trials. It seems to be a very safe treatment and I would encourage anyone interested in participating in the research to contact Dr. Julie Wang who is involved in the study.

One last thought, there is a medication that is available now that might be an effective treatment for food allergies- it’s called Xolair. It is presently only indicated for severe asthma, and it is an expensive drug only covered for this reason. However, I have used this for a few asthmatic patients and seen that they were more protected against their food allergies. The most dramatic case I had was a patient who had asthma and was highly allergic to salmon and tuna. She was so allergic she couldn’t even be in the same room as someone eating the food- it would cause an asthma attack. She hadn’t been to a restaurant in years because of this severe food allergy. She was treated with the Xolair injections once a month and not only did her asthma get better, but she noticed she didn’t have those severe reactions if she was near salmon or tuna, or if someone she was with had eaten either of these fish. I wasn’t recommending she eat these foods, but having more confidence that she was more protected did improve the quality of her life. Using Xolair for food allergies would be off’-label use of the product and expensive (around 1,000 per injection), but I can’t help thinking how many patients might benefit from its use.

Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC & Long Island

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