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FDA approves first under-the-tongue pill for hay fever

Teresa Tanoos's picture
New sublingual allergy pill approved by the FDA.

Spring has sprung, bringing forth a variety of allergens ranging from dust and dander to insect venom and pollen – all of which are commonly known irritants that can bring on allergies, including hay fever.

While there is no cure, there are a number of treatments available for treating allergy symptoms, including a new sublingual pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that is placed under the tongue to fight hay fever and other allergies from grass pollen.

The new pill is the first sublingual drug approved for treating symptoms of hay fever, such as nasal congestion, a runny nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, as well as cough from postnasal drip.

The drug is called Oralair and is comprised of five different kinds of grass known to be common allergens. Although Oralair just received approval by the FDA and is not yet available in the U.S., it has been used in Europe for several years.

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In rare cases, and only in the few who are sensitive to the medication, the drug can cause a serious side effect that manifests itself in the form of a severe immune reaction. As a result, the first dose is administered four months before the start of the grass pollen season in a physician’s office under the supervision of medical professionals.

Hay fever affects up to 30 percent of all people worldwide. In the United States, it affects nearly 8 percent of all American adults and up to 10 percent of all American children, costing some $3.4 billion due to the cost of prescription drugs, but that number is likely an underestimate due to many who mistakenly believe they have a cold when they actually have allergies.

In addition to antihistamines, allergy shots may also help lower one’s sensitivity to pollen and other triggers for allergies.

In the meantime, an advisory panel for the FDA has recommended approval of similar treatments that don’t require needles, including Grastek.

SOURCE: Food and Drug Administration, FDA NEWS RELEASE: FDA approves first sublingual allergen extract for the treatment of certain grass pollen allergies, April 2, 2014.