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New ragweed allergy pill nothing to sneeze at

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The FDA has approved Ragwitek, the first allergen extract administered sublingually (where it quickly dissolves under the tongue), “offering millions of adults, 18-65, living with short ragweed pollen allergies in the United States an alternative to allergy shots to help manage their disease,” said Karen Midthun, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

Short ragweed pollen is one of the most common seasonal allergens and is prevalent during the late summer and early fall months throughout most of the country. To date the only ways to alleviate symptons have been through allergy shots, both prescription and OTC relief medications, and simply avoiding the offending plants.

The pills, which contain an extract from short ragweed pollen are meant to be taken once daily, beginning about 12 weeks prior to the onset of ragweed pollen season and continued throughout the season. Although patients will be able to medicate themselves at home, the initial dose is taken in a doctor’s office where they can be observed for at least a half hour for potential adverse reactions. These may include moderate symptoms such as runny noses, repetitive sneezing, nasal itching, nasal congestion, and itchy and watery eyes in allergy suffers with or without conjunctivitis. Still, Ragiwtek comes with a boxed warning to inform that severe allergic reactions, some of which can be life-threatening, can occur. Ragwitek also has a Medication Guide for distribution to the patient.

To learn more, readers should consult with their allergists, or call the FDA consumer information line at 888 Info-FDA.

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