Allergies affect more than 50 million people in this country every year, making them the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. The negative impact on quality of life drives spending in excess of $18 billion, annually, on remedies that are often temporary and only partially effective.
While most people think of allergies as “hay fever” caused by pollens, the causes can be a lot more insidious. For example, about 20 million people are allergic to house dust mites — microscopic pests living in just about every home that are so prevalent you literally can’t get away from them, and which can trigger allergic reactions not just in spring, but all year round. However, breakthroughs in allergy immunotherapy offer some relief.
Allergy immunotherapy in an at-home tablet
“Today, patients are looking for convenient and lasting means to treat their disease,” says Jorge Alderete, president of ALK Americas. “Treatment options such as sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) allergy tablets can provide an answer.”
Allergy immunotherapy has traditionally only been available as an injection performed by a physician — a so-called “allergy shot.” SLIT-tablets are placed under the tongue, where they dissolve in seconds. “Allergy Immunotherapy (AIT) is a preventive treatment for allergic reactions to substances such as house dust mites, grass pollens, ragweed pollens, and tree pollens,” notes Alderete. “AIT involves gradually giving doses of the allergen (the substance to which the person is allergic). The consistent exposure of the allergen causes the immune system to become less sensitive to the substance — known as ‛desensitization’ — which reduces the symptoms of allergy when the allergen is encountered in the future.”
A different treatment era
Alderete is responsible for ALK’s newest allergy treatment, ODACTRA® (House Dust Mite [Dermatophagoides farinae and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus] Allergen Extract Tablet for Sublingual Use), a prescription SLIT-tablet that offers benefits similar to a traditional shot. ODACTRA is a prescription medicine used for sublingual (under the tongue) immunotherapy to treat house dust mite allergies that can cause sneezing, runny or itchy nose, stuffy or congested nose, or itchy and watery eyes. ODACTRA may be prescribed for persons 18 through 65 years of age who are allergic to house dust mites. ODACTRA is not a medication that gives immediate relief for symptoms of house dust mite allergy. “In clinical trials, patients using SLIT-tablets saw reduced allergic rhinitis and allergic conjunctivitis symptoms and reduced need for symptomatic medications such as antihistamines or corticosteroid nasal sprays,” says Alderete. “Taking ODACTRA for this important allergen can help house dust mite-allergic patients feel better, even when other allergens, like pollen, come into season.”
The benefits of a treatment like ODACTRA are clear. Aside from avoiding another trip to the allergist’s office, the treatment can be taken at home and can reduce the need for multiple over-the-counter medications.
Alderete advises anyone who thinks ODACTRA — or a similar SLIT treatment — might be right for them to consult with their allergist. Patients should be aware that allergy immunotherapy has a risk for severe allergic reactions. Therefore, the first dose must be taken in the doctor’s office and auto-injectable epinephrine is prescribed. “When it comes to seasonal allergies, people should talk to their allergists about the type, duration, and onset of symptoms,” he says.
Allergies can make everything hazy year round, especially if you’re unknowingly allergic to house dust mites. But one thing is clear: the latest allergy immunotherapy treatments give you another option beyond allergy shots to help improve allergy symptoms, decrease use of traditional over-the-counter allergy medications, and treat the underlying cause of allergies. Learn more at www.odactra.com.
Selected Important Safety Information about ODACTRA
What is the most important information I should know about ODACTRA?
ODACTRA can cause severe allergic reactions that may be life-threatening. If any of these symptoms occur, stop taking ODACTRA and immediately seek medical care:
- Trouble breathing
- Throat tightness or swelling
- Trouble swallowing or speaking
- Dizziness or fainting
- Rapid or weak heartbeat
- Severe stomach cramps or pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Severe flushing or itching of the skin
For home administration of ODACTRA, your doctor should prescribe auto-injectable epinephrine to treat a severe reaction, should one occur. Your doctor will train and instruct you on the proper use of auto-injectable epinephrine.
If you forget to take ODACTRA, do not take two tablets. Take the next tablet at your normal scheduled time the next day. If you miss more than one tablet of ODACTRA, contact your doctor before restarting.
Do not take ODACTRA if:
- You have severe, unstable or uncontrolled asthma
- You had a severe allergic reaction in the past that included any of these symptoms: trouble breathing, dizziness or fainting, rapid or weak heartbeat.
- You have ever had difficulty with breathing due to swelling of the throat or upper airway after using any sublingual immunotherapy before.
- You have ever been diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis.
- You are allergic to any of the inactive ingredients in ODACTRA.
Your doctor may decide that ODACTRA is not the best treatment if:
- You have asthma, depending on how severe it is.
- You suffer from lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- You suffer from heart disease such as coronary artery disease, an irregular heart rhythm, or you have hypertension that is not well controlled.
- You are pregnant, plan to become pregnant during the time you will be taking ODACTRA, or are breast-feeding.
- You are unable or unwilling to administer auto-injectable epinephrine to treat a severe allergic reaction to ODACTRA.
- You are taking certain medicines that enhance the likelihood of a severe reaction, or interfere with the treatment of a severe reaction. These medicines include:
- Beta blockers and alpha-blockers (prescribed for high blood pressure)
- Cardiac glycosides (prescribed for heart failure or problems with heart rhythm)
- Diuretics (prescribed for heart conditions and high blood pressure)
- Ergot alkaloids (prescribed for migraine headache)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors or tricyclic antidepressants (prescribed for depression)
- Thyroid hormone (prescribed for low thyroid activity).
- If you are receiving allergy shots or other immunotherapy under the tongue. Use of more than one of these types of medicines together may increase the likelihood of a severe allergic reaction.
Stop taking ODACTRA and contact your doctor if you have any mouth surgery procedures (such as tooth removal), develops any mouth infections, ulcers or cuts in the mouth or throat, or have heartburn, difficulty swallowing, pain with swallowing, or chest pain that does not go away or worsens.
The most commonly reported side effects were throat irritation/tickle, itching in the mouth or ears, swelling of the back of the mouth, lips or tongue. These side effects, by themselves, are generally not dangerous or life-threatening.
Please see full Prescribing Information, including Boxed Warning and Medication Guide, for additional important safety information.
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Jeff Somers, [email protected]