The FDA Just Approved a Drug That Could Make Food Allergies Less Severe

Testing of the drug, Xolair, is continuing

A prepared injection of Xolair in the Allergy and Asthma Associates Office in San Jose.
MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

If you’ve ever experienced a severe allergic reaction to something you ate — or you’ve been in the presence of someone who has — you know how serious they can be. According to the USDA, 30,000 people visit the emergency room each year due to food allergies, with allergies killing 150 people annually as well. It’s enough to leave you wondering where medical science is on treating those conditions — and this week, the FDA made a significant announcement on that very subject.

Specifically, the FDA approved the drug Xolair, an injectable drug, for the treatment of allergic reactions. In their announcement of the approval, the FDA specifically noted that Xolair is not designed to allow people to eat foods that they’re allergic to. Instead, the drug “[reduces] the risk of allergic reactions and is not approved for the immediate emergency treatment of allergic reactions.”

“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,” said Dr. Kelly Stone of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in a statement.

If taking Xolair is the difference between mild discomfort and a trip to the hospital for someone with a food allergy, it’s not hard to see the appeal.

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As Ars Technica’s Beth Mole pointed out, trials of Xolair are continuing, including further research into whether or not the drug can be used in tandem with oral immunotherapy. Oral immunotherapy is a relatively new development in treating food allergies — the New York Times Magazine covered it in 2013 — and a combination of the two, if successful, could make the lives of people with food allergies significantly easier.

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