New drops could be future for allergy sufferers

An estimated 40 percent of Americans suffer from allergies. Some experience such severe symptoms that they visit the doctor several times a year for allergy shots.

Now a new study suggests patients can find relief without the need for needles.

For years allergy sufferers have endured weekly rounds of immunotherapy shots, designed to train their immune system to ignore allergy triggers, like pollen or grass.

"What that translates to for the patient is decreased symptoms, decreased need for medication," explains Dr. Sandra Y. Lin, M.D., an Associate Professor of Otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

It is also a significant investment of time and money. Now researchers are investigating a different way to deliver the same medication with under-the-tongue drops.

It's not approved by the FDA, but has been used in Europe for decades and in the U.S. as an off-label drug.

"Because it is dosed at home it could really increase the accessibility for the average patient to have this type of therapy,” says Dr. Lin.

Dr. Sandra Lin at Johns Hopkins University reviewed more than 60 studies that looked at the effectiveness of the drops, and found they not only cut down on allergy symptoms, but also the number of medications patients took.

It worked for allergy sufferers of all ages, welcome news for little patients who have a fear of shots.

"The studies have shown down to very young kids, even toddlers, as long as they can cooperate with holding the drops under the tongue that they are actual candidates for this,” Dr. Lin says.

Because there are no FDA approved manufacturers of under-the-tongue allergy drops in the U.S., outside experts say dosing could be inconsistent. Researchers and patients hope, with more study, allergy drops will soon be approved here.

The drops are not covered by insurance. However, many patients say they are cheaper than shots when you include the cost of frequent co-pays and travel expenses.

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