Recently, a clinical trial undertaken by Aimmune Therapeutics reached the final stages of testing for their lead investigational drug known as AR101. Aimmune Therapeutics state that AR101 is an oral biological drug designed to help protect patients from severe allergic reactions during accidental peanut exposure.
Many food allergy advocacy groups were thrilled over this historic breakthrough in peanut tolerance drugs, as 1 in 50 children are allergic to peanuts in the U.S. Peanut allergies are also believed to cause deaths as a result of anaphylaxis, which is an acute allergic reaction that can cause restriction of the airways. The testing proved successful on two thirds of children, but did not work for any of the adults in the study. The trial of AR101 was the largest of its kind, with 551 people participating, 496 being children age 4-17, and the other 55 people being adults ages 18-55. All participants had peanut allergies before the study began, and most had anaphylactic reactions upon consuming peanuts, while over half had asthma and other food allergies. Those hospitalized by a severe allergic reaction within the last 60 days during the study were excluded, as well as those who had severe or poorly controlled asthma.
When considering how many people are allergic to peanuts, and how severe anaphylaxis instigated from an allergic reaction is, the drug is a significant medical breakthrough. If the drug is ironed out more, and some of the flaws are corrected, such as adults being able to use the drug successfully, peanut-related deaths should fall dramatically, and many people who frequently worry about peanut-related incidents should get some peace of mind.
When asked about the severity of his peanut allergy, Scott Clarke, a 50 year old man who has been allergic for twenty years, stated that, “My symptoms are a rash, mouth sores, and my throat swells up, not to where I can’t breathe though.” Clarke also said that he would be interested in a treatment for his allergy, as long as there were no side effects. Although it is undoubtedly very inconvenient to have a peanut allergy as an adult, having a peanut allergy as a child can be even more so, as many things are made with peanuts or in a facility which processes peanuts. The only current medical item available to be used if one is having an allergic reaction to peanuts is the Epipen. An Epipen is a shot which, upon injection into the leg, delivers epinephrine to your body and narrows blood vessels to open up airways in the lungs. It is useful for dealing with anaphylaxis, which makes it vital if one is having an allergic reaction.
However, there may soon be a better way, as Epipens are notoriously expensive. AR101 can help children build a resistance to peanuts, which can negate the effects of an allergic reaction. Jessica Hamilton, mother of a nine-year-old with a severe peanut allergy about the new AR101 drug, stated that she thought the drug and what it did was intriguing. “My son’s symptoms are mouth sores, hives, vomiting, and trouble breathing,” she stated. “I’m glad that science is catching up. I think we would definitely consider it.” In summary, peanut allergies are a big problem for children and adults all over the world. Anaphylactic reactions to peanuts make up a big portion of the 200 deaths caused by peanut allergies per year. Once the new AR101 drug is ready for mass consumption and is affordable, fewer people will die at the hands of nature, further cementing the era of medical breakthroughs we live in today.