NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has given the green light to the first treatment for food allergies.
The drug works by exposing children with peanut allergies over time to build up tolerance.
Stella Chukwulozie has a severe peanut allergy, something that’s always on the 16-year-old’s mind.
She says she always has her EpiPen with her so that she’s always prepared.
“It’s really important that I don’t forget it at home or anywhere,” she said.
Her mom, Jean Polsky, says they stay vigilant so she doesn’t have a life-threatening reaction.
“I remember after she was diagnosed sort of feeling like my whole reality had shifted,” she said.
Three years ago, doctors told the family about a study testing a new oral immunotherapy treatment called AR-101.
“Up until now, we have had no treatments available for food allergy at all,” said Dr. Julie Wang, a clinical researcher at Mount Sinai Hospital‘s Jaffe Food Allergy Institute.
Wang says patients are exposed to small, escalating doses of peanut protein with the goal of desensitizing them.
“That same low dose would then not trigger an allergic reaction, or at least would minimize the severity of an allergic reaction,” she said.
Research shows about 67% of children and teens treated with AR-101 were able to tolerate the equivalent of about two peanuts, but 20% discontinued treatment, including 10% because of adverse events such as side effects or reactions.
“Allergic reactions are possible, which is why oral immunotherapy is something that needs to be done under close medical supervision,” Wang said.
Chukwulozie had some minor reactions during treatment, and with continued therapy, she’s able to tolerate some exposure to peanuts.
“I’m 100% glad I took part in [the study]. I say this from the heart — it’s completely changed my life,” she said.
She says the treatment allows her to live her life with less fear.
The vote from the advisory committee does not mean the drug is approved. Most drugs recommended by advisory committee do go on to win FDA approval, however.