New pill offers hope for ragweed allergy sufferers

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- If you are sniffling, sneezing and going through tissues like there is no tomorrow, you are not alone.

Allergy season seems especially rough this year, but for the millions who suffer from ragweed allergies there is a new tool in your arsenal and it doesn't involves those pesky shots.

Relief may come in the form of a daily pill but you'll want to call your doctor soon.

Ragweed season is upon us and experts say for the millions of people who suffer from hay fever, this could be the worst ragweed season in 50 years.

For many, antihistamines and nose sprays don't bring enough relief, which means painful shots, bi-weekly or monthly, throughout allergy season.

Allergy shots are inconvenient and they are expensive, but they work.

However there are a lot of problems people have to deal with when receiving allergy shots every day.

Diane Gunter of Granger is one of those sufferers and has dealt with allergies her entire life.

“I get congested and it kicks into asthma also which is a bad effect, and then you can get into bronchitis, sinus infections,” said Diane.

Today, she is seeing Allergist/Immunologist Dr. Jim Harris to talk about taking a new oral medication called Ragwitek, recently approved by the FDA for ragweed allergies.

“Ragwitek is a tablet that contains ragweed pollen, and the idea is we're going to put it under your tongue and it is going to be absorbed that way and over a period of time it will desensitize you to ragweed,” said Dr. Harris.

Ragweed season officially starts around August 1 and runs through October 1, so Dr. Harris says optimally patients should start the drug about 12 weeks beforehand.

However, he says patients can build up immunity in as little as four weeks.

And one of the best parts?

“It works very much like an allergy shots except you don't get a shot,” said Dr. Harris.

Diane had to take her first dose at the doctor’s office just to make sure she wouldn't have an allergic reaction, but Diane is thrilled she will be able to take a daily pill at home in the future.

“The time differential, and you have to wait when you get shots to see if you have a reaction, so this will be wonderful,” said Diane.

And Dr. Harris says the pills are proving effective.

The tablets work very well, the average improvement in the studies is 30 to 40 percent but I think in practice it's going to be better than that,” said Dr. Harris

He calls this little pill one of the biggest breakthroughs for allergy sufferers in decades and it's cheaper and more convenient.

“I've never seen anything quite this dramatic before, we've never had a way to get rid of the allergies that was so convenient and so easy to do,” said Dr. Harris. “We have people that are housebound from August through September, they may not tolerate the shots even, so this is really going to change some lives I think.”

Diane hopes it will be a life changer for her.

If these little pills prove as effective as Dr. Harris and Diane hope, it will mean an end to a lifetime of rolling up her sleeve for shots during ragweed season.

Not all insurance plans are covering the cost of the Ragwitek pill yet, so a check with your doctor and insurance company may be needed before starting to take the pill.

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