Peanut allergy treatment could protect patients from reactions

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel is recommending approval off the first drug to treat life-threatening peanut allergies. It affects 1.2 million children.

The drug Palforzia still needs final approval from the FDA, but it is already offering hope to patients like Danielle Tryon. She has had multiple food allergies, including peanuts, since she was a toddler. From early on she learned the fine art of avoiding exposure.

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“Even just being in rooms any time that I smelled peanut butter I would be like hyper-alert. It’s something that can kill you,” Tryon said.

She has had to use adrenaline four times to counter life-threatening reactions. “It was hard, it was really hard,” said her mother, Nancy Tryon.

In 2016, Danielle Tryon enrolled in a trial for a new treatment. Patients swallow a trace amount of peanut protein and gradually scale up. 

“You slowly make your body get used to it over time,” said Dr. Jonathan Spergel, who helped run the trial at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

In patients aged 4 to 17, a third taking the drug were able to tolerate the equivalent of two peanuts. But nearly 12% withdrew because of allergic reactions or side effects like stomach problems.

“It means cross-contamination is not such a big issue. You can’t go home and have a peanut butter sandwich, but you should be able to walk out with less fear,” said Spergel.

The treatment has already given Tryon, now 17, a taste of her new freedom, like a trip to an ice cream shop for the first time and imagining life in a college dorm.

“I could not even believe that’s down the line now,” she said.

“She’s got her wings she might as well go off and fly,” Nancy Tryon said.

The oral therapy is not a cure. The drug would still need to be used daily and over the long term as 80% of children with peanut allergy stay allergic. It’s meant to prevent severe reactions to accidental exposure versus taking medication afterward.

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