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FDA approves first drug to treat peanut allergies

The new drug is fighting allergic reactions to peanuts -- with peanuts.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The FDA has approved the first drug to treat peanut allergies in children, and it is expected to be available on the First Coast before the summer.

“We’re pretty excited about it because we feel it gives parents of young children an option to try and protect their children and desensitize them as much as the can,” said Dr. Sunil Joshi of Family Allergy And Asthma Consultants.

Palforzia is the new drug that is fighting reactions to peanuts -- with peanuts.

“Initially the dose is so small, it’s almost like you’re getting a placebo,” Joshi said. “And then you slowly increase it, slowly over time until, in essence, you fooled your immune system.to think this is normal.”

The drug is not meant to be a cure, but lessen kids’ sensitivity to peanuts.

Children ages 4 to 17 can be prescribed these capsules containing peanut protein. They are to be broken and the contents sprinkled over food.

Although this is now approved by the FDA, it doesn’t mean the drug is entirely safe.

“There is still a risk to have an adverse reaction during the desensitization process,” Joshi said. “About 10 percent of kids had a reaction.”

Joshi says those reactions happened within the first two hours of exposure. That’s exactly why the first dose is required to be administered at a certified healthcare provider’s office where resources are readily available to treat anaphylaxis.

“We’re not building them to the top very quickly,” Joshi said. “It is a slow process that will take multiple weeks or multiple months to get up to the top.”

Once the top dose is reached, Joshi says the recipient will need to maintain continual doses of the drug to stay desensitized. Once up to that top dose, Joshi says some recipients tolerated eating up to two peanuts.

“They still need to be 100 percent avoiding peanuts,” Joshi said. “They still should not be going out and eating a snickers bar.”

Still no snickers bars for these kids, but still a chance at a safer and healthier life.

Joshi says kids with peanut allergies should still take proper precautions with the drug, such as continuing to carry around injectable epinephrine. He says his practice is expected to be prescribing Palforzia before the summer.