Good news for parents of kids with peanut allergies: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first drug for children who are allergic to peanuts.

Dr. Puja Rajani pediatric allergist
Dr. Puja Rajani

It’s been “a long time coming” for the 1 million or so U.S. children with a peanut allergy, said pediatric allergist Dr. Puja Rajani at Novant Health Pediatric Allergy & Immunology.

The drug will be prescription-only. In fact, Palforzia is the first FDA-approved drug to treat any food allergy.

“There is active research going on for wheat, egg, milk, tree nuts – all of these. There are a lot of studies about what is the best method to teach the immune system,” Rajani said.

While Palforzia is approved for peanut-allergic children, it’s not yet available to purchase. Rajani said it could take a few months to hit the market. It’s not clear how much the medication will cost or whether it will be covered by insurance.

'The biggest life-changing part'

Peanut allergy is a condition where the body thinks even small amounts of peanuts are harmful. Palforzia is a medication that’s meant to teach the body to tolerate exposure to peanuts. Taking it can reduce the risk of a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis.

It is not, however, a “fix” for peanut allergy. “I think it’s really important to note that this medication is not meant to be a cure for these children,” Rajani said. “It’s really just an effort to minimize the risk for anaphylaxis when you come across an accidental exposure to peanuts.”

Parents of children with peanut allergy often worry what their child will encounter at school, sporting events and birthday parties.

“Now there’s this reassurance that their risk for a severe reaction is minimized, at least in a percentage of children who take this medication,” Rajani said. “I think that’s the biggest life-changing part.”

Palforzia is approved for ages 4 to 17. It was also studied in adults, but it was not as effective, Rajani said.

Rajani was careful to add that the medication “is not side effect free.” Possible side effects include:

  • Itching or irritation of the mouth
  • Allergic reactions such as hives, swelling or trouble breathing
  • Runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Gastrointestinal side effects including vomiting

Palforzia is also a lifelong therapy and people should expect frequent office visits when the medication is first administered, Rajani said.

“There is a build-up phase when you come to the office biweekly to increase to the full dose of the peanut therapy,” Rajani said.

 Rajani joins Novant Health

Rajani is the first allergist at Novant Health and one of only several pediatric allergists in the Charlotte area. She is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

While Rajani has a special interest in food allergy, she treats many other conditions including asthma, eczema, hives, seasonal allergies and chronic sinus infections. She joined Novant Health Pediatric Allergy & Immunology in January 2020.

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