FDA approves asthma medication Xolair for severe food allergies

Food allergens

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the asthma medication Xolair for severe food allergies.

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The Associated Press reported that Xolair is the name brand for omalizumab and is given by injection and can be used to lessen the effects of reactions when someone is accidentally exposed to allergens in foods.

It is used as a safety net if someone is accidentally exposed to an allergen, not as an emergency treatment, USA Today reported.

It can be given to patients as young as 1 year old and every two to four weeks depending on their weight and how they respond to an allergic trigger.

While it helps lessen the reactions, people with food allergies still need to avoid items that can cause a potentially deadly reaction including peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, milk products and eggs, even when they are on Xolair, the AP reported. The treatment allows them to be exposed to higher amounts of the foods without causing a major reaction but doesn’t do away fully with the response.

“While it will not eliminate food allergies or allow patients to consume food allergens freely, its repeated use will help reduce the health impact if accidental exposure occurs,” Dr. Kelly Stone, said in the FDA news release announcing the medication’s approval. Stone is the associate director of the Division of Pulmonology, Allergy, and Critical Care in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

While the FDA just approved the use of Xolair, it isn’t the first time it has been used to treat food allergies. Dr. Ruchi Gupta, director of the Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research at Northwestern University told the AP that it had been used as an “off-label” treatment.

The cost for Xolair is between $2,900 and $5,000 a month depending on if the person taking it is a child or an adult, but it is covered by insurance, the AP said.

About 6% of people in the U.S. as of 2021 have a food allergy that could “lead to potentially life-threatening allergic reactions” The FDA said there is no cure for a food allergy, so people with the condition need to avoid foods that can cause a reaction and use epinephrine to treat anaphylaxis if an accidental exposure happens, the FDA said.

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