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FDA approves first sublingual pill for allergies

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With spring upon us, those struggling with allergies may find some relief since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday that the agency has approved a new pill that is placed under the tongue to battle grass allergies.

The medication, Oralair, is the first sublingual pill approved by the FDA for grass allergies. Made of five different types of grass that are common allergens, the treatment has been available in Europe for many years.

In rare cases, it can cause a serious immune reaction in sensitive people. Therefore, the initial dose is typically administered in a doctor’s office under medical supervision, starting four months prior to the onset of the grass pollen season.

According to the FDA, there are 30 million people in the United States and 500 million worldwide who suffer from a common allergy known as hay fever, which causes symptoms of sneezing and itchy, watery eyes.

Although symptoms can be treated with drugs like antihistamines, an effective cure for hay fever remains elusive.

“While there is no cure for grass pollen allergies, they can be managed through treatment and avoiding exposure to the pollen,” said Karen Midthun, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “The approval of Oralair provides an alternative to allergy shots that must be given in a health care provider’s office. Oralair can be taken at home after the first administration.”

In addition to antihistamines, allergy shots may help lower one’s sensitivity to pollen and other triggers for allergies.

In the meantime, an advisory panel for the FDA has recommended approval of similar treatments that don’t require needles, including Grastek.

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