Injection that can 'reduce risk' of food allergy reactions approved for use

By John Mercury February 20, 2024

An injection that can “reduce the risk of harmful allergic reactions” in people with food allergies has been approved for use in the US.

Certain adults and children aged one or over who have immunoglobulin E-mediated food allergies will be eligible to have the injection, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.

The jab uses omalizumab – sold under the brand name Xolair – to reduce the risk of anaphylaxis, a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur when a person is accidentally exposed to one or more foods.

Xolair is already approved for the treatment of moderate to severe persistent allergic asthma in certain patients, as well as for other symptoms, such as skin reactions or nasal polyps.

An immunoglobulin E-mediated food allergy – IgE-mediated for short – is the most common type of food allergy, triggered by the immune system producing an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE), according to the charity, Allergy UK.

Symptoms of an IgE-mediated food allergy occur a few seconds or minutes after eating.

They can range from mild to severe and may include skin reactions, digestive issues, respiratory symptoms, swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, or face, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis.

How does Xolair work?

When an individual is exposed to a food allergen, the allergen binds to the IgE antibodies in their cells, triggering the release of multiple chemical substances, including histamine and other inflammatory mediators, Allergy UK says.

It is the release of these chemicals that leads to an allergic reaction.

When administered, Xolair aims to bind to IgE, instead of the allergen, blocking it from binding to its receptors and causing symptoms.

The FDA says those who take Xolair must continue to avoid foods they are allergic to.

Xolair is intended for repeated use to reduce the risk of allergic reactions and is not approved for the emergency treatment of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.

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“This newly approved use for Xolair will provide a treatment option to reduce the risk of harmful allergic reactions among certain patients with IgE-mediated food allergies,” Kelly Stone, an associate director of the division of pulmonology, allergy, and critical care in the FDA’s centre for drug evaluation and research, said.

“While it will not eliminate food allergies or allow patients to consume food allergens freely, its repeated use will help reduce the health impact if accidental exposure occurs.”

An estimated 17 million people in the US have the type of food allergies that can cause rapid, serious symptoms, including severe reactions that are potentially deadly.

In the UK, between 1-10% of the population have a food hypersensitivity, but as many as 20% experience some reactions to foods which make them believe they have a food hypersensitivity, Allergy UK reports.

There is currently no cure for food allergies.


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