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Healthwatch: Pills Could Replace Shots For Grass Pollen Allergies

Mary Kay Kleist Mary Kay Kleist
Mary Kay Kleist is a meteorologist for CBS 2 Chicago. Kleist joined...
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(CBS) – For some people, weekly trips to the doctor for shots to treat their allergies are just as bad as the allergies themselves. But there could be a major change soon in the way serious allergies are being treated.

Connor and Karen Duran’s grass allergy symptoms would drive them crazy.

“Her eyes get so red and pink and swell, like she can’t even open them,” said their mother.

And the shots were no fun.

Connor said, “It does hurt,” while Karen said, “I’m just afraid if it’s going to hurt a lot more than it usually does.”

But now, the FDA is considering something that does the same thing as shots, but in tablet form.

“The need for something like this in the consumer market is high. You can do this therapy at home every day,” said allergist Dr. David Skoner.

The tablet contains grass pollen, goes right under the tongue, and dissolves. Taken daily for 12 weeks before grass pollen season, and for the 6 to 8 weeks of the season, it retrains the immune system to not react so strongly.

“About 30 percent of people who put this tablet under their tongue will have itching, maybe some minor swelling,” said Dr. Skoner.

In some rare cases, the swelling is severe and there can be shortness of breath and a drop in blood pressure. For those reasons, the first dose must be taken in the doctor’s office. The labeling will also include a strong recommendation to have emergency epinephrine on hand at home.

“A few people might have used epinephrine in the trials, but it was never really certain they needed it, or that it was caused by the tablet,” said Dr. Skoner.

The studies are showing the tablets work well and are safe, so an FDA advisory panel has recommended approval. Of course, Connor and Karen’s mother would prefer tablets over shots at the office any day.

“That would be awesome,” she said. “Just pick it up and you’d be good to go.”

Researchers say the tablets work better than antihistamine pills which only treat the symptoms. Approval of the grass pollen tablets could come in the next several weeks, just in time to get people started before spring allergy season.

Next to be tested, ragweed pills.