Immunotherapy Allergy Tablets: Can I Use Them?April 3, 2014

You may soon be hearing about immunotherapy allergy tablets and wondering if it’s a good option to treat your allergies. In limited cases, immunotherapy tablets can be a helpful tool for those who suffer only from grass allergies, although treatment with traditional allergy medication and allergy shots will continue to be most commonly prescribed by allergists.

How Doctors Determine a Course of Action for Allergy Patients

Allergy & Clinical Immunology Associates tests patients for allergies and reviews their history before deciding on a course of treatment. For instance, a patient with a mild to moderate dust mite allergy may be able to control it through over-the-counter or prescribed medication. We would also suggest lifestyle changes such as covering all mattresses and pillows with special protectors and replacing carpeting with wood or tile floor.

Not everyone finds relief from medication, though. Between 15-20 percent of our new patients eventually start allergy injection therapy because medication or lifestyle changes aren’t delivering effective relief.

Now that the FDA has approved immunotherapy tablets that can be used as an alternative to allergy shots, we expect to be getting calls from patients who would like to learn more.

Pros and Cons of Each Allergy Therapy

Allergy Medication

Allergy medication—whether in pill/oral form, or nasal spray—works by preventing and/or relieving symptoms when your immune system is triggered.

Benefits of over-the-counter or prescription medication

  • It can give good relief of symptoms for many patients.
  • Some medications are inexpensive in generic form.
  • You take the proper dose at home.

Negatives of over-the-counter or prescription medication

  • It may not be effective for those with severe allergy problems.
  • It does not help your body tolerate allergens once you discontinue use.

Allergy Shots

Allergy shots work by taking small amounts of extracted allergens and injecting then under your skin. Over time, your body creates a tolerance to the allergen.

Benefits of allergy shots

  • Shots are usually very effective following the full course of treatment.
  • Shots can contain multiple allergens, such as pollens, dust mites, and mold.
  • They help the body tolerate allergens for many years even after the shots have been completed.

Negatives of allergy shots

  • Patients must receive shots as often as once a week for as long as a year, and then receive maintenance shots every two to four weeks for several more years.
  • Patients must get shots in a physician’s office and then wait 30 minutes.

Immunotherapy Tablets

These tablets contain an extract of an allergen and are taken as a pill instead of a shot. As of right now, the FDA has only approved tablets for grass allergies.

Benefits of Immunotherapy Tablets

  • Patients can take a pill at home, according to their allergist’s instructions.
  • Unlike allergy shots, there is no discomfort with treatment.
  • They help the body tolerate allergens for many years even after shots have been completed.
  • Like allergy shots, these tablets are effective.
  • Certain patients (those who only wish to treat grass allergies from home) would find the tablets beneficial.

Ragweed immunotherapy tablets will likely be approved soon, followed by tablets for dust mite and cat allergy sufferers within the next few years.

Negatives of Immunotherapy Tablets

  • As of today, the FDA has only approved grass allergen tablets. Patients who want to be treated for other allergens would have to take regular allergy medication or receive shots.
  •  Insurance companies may not cover tablets since medication and shots are available and are effective. The manufacturer’s pricing is still to be determined.
  • They do not replace allergy shots.

Immunotherapy tablets are not a universal solution for most allergy sufferers at this time. However, for patients who would like to control their grass allergies during the few months that the season lasts, and who don’t have other allergies that require treatment, this particular therapy would be well-suited to them.

Once we have this treatment in our office, Allergy & Clinical Immunology Associates will provide it to patients who meet the criteria we’ve listed above. If you’d like to hear more, call our office today.