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Allergy medications aim to build tolerance

A new option is available for allergy sufferers — instead of shots and medication that treat bothersome allergy symptoms, recently approved tablets are available.

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved three new allergy tablets: Grastek and Oralair for people allergic to grass pollen and Ragwitek for people who are allergic to ragweed.

The tablets are a form of allergen immunotherapy, the process used to administer increasing doses of what the patient is allergic to in hopes it will build up a tolerance to the allergen.

“The tablet is placed under the patient’s tongue and slowly dissolves,” said Dr. Alaaddin Kandeel, an Essentia Health allergist and immunologist. “The initial dose is taken here in my office, so I can monitor the patient’s reaction. After that, if there isn’t a negative reaction, follow-up doses can be taken at home, making it much more convenient for patients.”

As a precaution, patients are provided with an emergency epinephrine injector and taught how and when to use it in case of adverse reactions to the tablets.

While the tablets may be a good alternative for those with a needle phobia or who don’t like allergy sprays, there are some drawbacks. The tablets need to be taken two months before the grass or ragweed allergy season begins, making it inconvenient for some people.

“Most of my patients have several allergies, which may include dust mites, trees and animals and the tablets only target certain allergies,” said Dr. Kandeel. “In those patients, allergy shots or medications would be a more appropriate option.”

Kandeel said the best thing for allergy sufferers is to talk with their allergist about options.

“It’s an exciting time in the fields of immunotherapy right now,” Kandeel said. “There are many options that are currently being studied and hopefully will soon be approved that can really make a difference in the quality of life for my patients.”