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Allergies : Drops Could Be Allergy Shot Alternative

Terry Rindfleisch, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

More and more research is showing that sublingual drops could be a common alternative to allergy shots.

A recent multi-center study that included the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has shown that allergy drops delivered under the tongue could be a safe and effective alternative to controlling ragweed pollen allergies.

Dr. Robert Bush, an emeritus professor of medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and one of the study's co-investigators, said drops have not been subjected to rigorous clinical trials in the United States, but the results of the study are encouraging.

Bush said the therapy seems to work best in patients who react to a single allergen, such as ragweed pollen.

"There needs to be a lot more research into multiple allergens, because most people don't just have one allergy," he said.

Allergy Associates based in Onalaska has been using sublingual drops to treat patients with allergies for many years. Its founder, Dr. David Morris, was a pioneer in using drops to treat patients.

Dr. Mary Morris, a physician with Allergy Associates, said she is encouraged by the multi-center study but added that it is difficult to study multiple allergens.

Morris said researchers and some physicians are looking to develop an allergy drop product that fits all patients like a prescription drug, but Allergy Associates customizes drops and treatment for the individual patient.

"And we successfully treat multiple allergies," Morris said.

She said the UW study showed that Allergy Associates was within the right range of doses to treat ragweed allergies.

Patients in the study were given sublingual drops over the course of a ragweed pollen season, and monitored and recorded their symptoms. Study results showed that symptom frequency decreased for those who were given high doses of the medication, as did the need to take additional medication.

The study appears in an issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

"We don't yet know how long people need to be treated with sublingual drops, or the proper dose levels yet," Bush said. "That will involve a slow process.

"There is a lot of interest by allergists, but they are hesitant to use drops without more evidence," he said. "There will be a ton of research in the next few years."

Europeans have been using what's known as sublingual allergen immunotherapy for years, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve its use here, except for research and clinical trials.

"The process is going to take a number of years, but this preliminary study paves the way for the future," Bush said. He likes oral drops because they don't involve painful needles and shots and they appear to carry less risk of patients developing anaphylaxis, a serious reaction to allergy shots.

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Copyright © 2010, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

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