Merck & Co released their data from a study of allergen immunotherapy to help fight ragweed and grass allergies. The company said on Sunday, March 4, 2012 they will be seeking approval from the FDA next year for the allergen immunotherapy pills.
The study from Merck & Co was in a Phase III where participants took the allergen immunotherapy pill once a day for 52 weeks. The study had 565 patients between the ages of 18-50 years old with and without asthma and who had allergies to ragweed. During the ragweed season, the study participants who took the allergen immunotherapy pill had a 14-17 percent reduced reaction to ragweed allergy symptoms. It also reduced the need for standard allergy medications like antihistamines and nasal steroids by 35-45 percent, at the two doses.
The allergen immunotherapy pills are an alternative from the allergy shots given by doctors to weaken the immune system response to ragweed, grass, foods or any other allergy type.
Rupert Vessey, senior vice president and franchise head of Respiratory and Immunology at Merck Research Laboratories said, “Merck is pleased that patients who took its AIT (allergen immunotherapy tablets) in this study experienced a significant reduction in the nasal and eye symptoms caused by ragweed allergies, and these positive results are an important step in the development of this investigational therapy.”
“Favorable data has also been seen in separate studies of the company’s medicine to moderate grass allergies. It and the ragweed product are the first pills to attack the underlying cause of allergy attacks, while current drugs just treat allergy symptoms,” he added. “Immune therapy actually modifies the disease. It educates the immune system to get rid of allergic responder cells, and to become tolerant of allergens.”
The allergen immunotherapy tablet (AIT) will be more convenient than an allergy shot because patients won’t have to visit their doctors repeatedly during the allergy season. Allergy shots given by allergists contain allergens that are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Allergy shots typically are taken for about three years, after which many patients experience relief for years afterward. By the same token, Merck’s pills, if approved, might also be taken for an extended period to tame immune responses, before patients stop treatment,” Vessey said.