Mediaplanet: What is immunotherapy and what are the benefits?

John Thresher: More than 100 years of scientific research and medical practice has proven that the only lasting relief for allergies is immunotherapy. Unlike over-the-counter medications or prescription nasal steroids, immunotherapy modifies how your body tolerates allergens like pollen, dust, animal dander and mold. After a course of immunotherapy, patients may no longer experience allergy symptoms such as runny nose, eye irritation, coughing and sneezing.

When you take medications to treat allergy symptoms, you must take those medications until you are no longer exposed to what you’re allergic to – whether that be until the spring or fall allergy season ends, or the allergen is removed from your environment, such as pets or dust. Some studies have also shown that immunotherapy actually stops the progression of allergies to asthma, and may also prevent the onset of new allergies.

MP: How is United Allergy Services empowering physicians to help their patients understand how to treat their allergies?

JT: First and foremost – testing is key. Immunotherapy is the treatment for allergies, but first physicians need to have a discussion with their patients regarding their allergy history – including symptoms and when their allergies are at their worst. Then, with any chronic disease, physicians will have their patients tested to truly understand what they are allergic to. United Allergy Services uses the skin-prick test, which is the most common and effective form of allergy testing for seasonal and perennial allergens. Once the specific allergens are determined, the results are shared with the patient, and then treatment options, such as immunotherapy may be discussed.

MP: What do primary care physicians need to know about immunotherapy?

JT: Immunotherapy is the best treatment option for patients who suffer from allergies and no longer want to continue to take medications to treat symptoms. Immunotherapy is safe and effective, and can be administered in the primary care provider’s office, and eventually taught to the patient to self-administer.

"Immunotherapy is the treatment for allergies, but first physicians need to have a discussion with their patients regarding their allergy history – including symptoms and when their allergies are at their worst."

In fact, United Allergy Services’ Chief Medical Officer Frederick M. Schaffer, M.D., with Larry Garner, allergy consultant; and Andrew Naples, clinical research coordinator; recently published one of the largest subcutaneous immunotherapy studies ever conducted. The article “The safety of self-administered allergen immunotherapy during the buildup and maintenance phases” was published in the International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology journal. The study concluded that the risk of adverse reaction is lower with the UAS treatment protocol utilized by our partner physicians than with other traditional or fast buildup dosage protocols of immunotherapy. The protocols developed by UAS utilize a slow buildup phase of immunotherapy, as well as pre-selecting patients to exclude those with a high risk of adverse reactions.

Immunotherapy truly transforms lives. I have heard many positive stories from patients, parents of pediatric patients, and physicians, who have seen a vast improvement in quality of life after immunotherapy.  One of the most common reasons many physicians report that they don’t recommend immunotherapy to more patients is lack of access.  By partnering with UAS, physicians are able to incorporate proven treatment protocols and gain access to the logistical and technical expertise necessary to expand the service offerings within their practice.

MP: Please talk a bit about the mission and vision of United Allergy Services.

JT: Driven by patient demand and rising costs, the healthcare industry is going through an unprecedented transformation that will shape how care is delivered, paid for and experienced well into the future. Currently, healthcare is shifting from hospitals and specialty-care to outpatient centers and primary care physicians. At United Allergy Services, we understand that patients are now looking for access to high quality, low-cost healthcare that is close to home and from providers they have come to know and trust. Providers are seeking better chronic care management solutions. The vision of UAS aligns with this structural change in the healthcare environment. Our mission is to revolutionize allergy care in the United States. We are improving lives by creating access to world-class allergy care for an underserved patient population. UAS is providing a way for primary care physicians to test and treat their patients with chronic allergic symptoms in a way that is safe and effective, while improving their quality of life. We empower our physician partners with the tools necessary to address the costly and debilitating chronic conditions of allergies and asthma. We are improving access for millions of allergy sufferers across the country by directly working with primary care physicians, including ENT physicians, pediatricians and internal medicine physicians, to provide advanced allergy care.