PHILADELPHIA - Children who have serious peanut allergies could soon have some relief as the Food and Drug Administration approved a new treatment that will help their bodies become more tolerant of the legume.
The drug, taken orally, is approved for patients with a confirmed diagnosis of peanut allergy, according to Aimmune Therapeutics, the biopharmaceutical company responsible for developing the treatment. However, the drug is not designed as an emergency treatment of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, the company said. Users of the drug must still avoid the consumption of peanuts.
Aimmune Therapeutics CEO Dr. Jayson Dallas told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo that initial treatment is administered to the patient, ages 4 through 17 years, in very small doses and gradually increased over time until the body develops the "ability to no longer recognize peanut as foreign."
"What we are trying to achieve here is the ability for children to be protected from that accidental exposure that may happen in the community," he explained.
Dallas added that he’s also looking to expand the treatment to other nut allergies.
Aimmune Therapeutics's stock shot up more than 20 percent on the heels of the news.
"This therapy is the first FDA-approved therapy for desensitizing children and teens with peanut allergies," said Dr. Jonathan Spergel of the Chidlren's Hospital of Philadelphia's Food Allergy Center. "While it’s not a cure, it will allow patients to live their lives with less fear of having a serious or fatal reaction to accidentally ingesting peanut protein."
CHOP points to the story of a boy named Noah as proof that oral immunotherapy can change a child's life.
When Noah was 6 years old, he accidentally ate a piece of candy with peanuts and developed a severe allergic reaction. The reaction haunted him for years, according to his family.
"He felt different and excluded, and his allergy worried him," said Craig, Noah’s father. "The severity of his reactions scared him."
Noah’s parents ultimately enrolled him in a CHOP study to see if PalforziaTM could help. Now, Noah no longer fears his peanut allergy and can go to his friends’ houses without being worried about accidentally ingesting peanuts.
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FOXBusiness.com contributed to this report.