New pill to treat peanut allergy reactions looks promising, experts say

LOS ANGELES, California -- Doctors said they're seeing more and more cases of a peanut allergy in children, and experts estimate two kids in every class are affected.

While there's no treatment for peanut allergies, there is hope - a new experimental pill some experts are calling "a game changer."

Toddlers, like Benjamin Gurango, usually get shots at the doctor. But instead, Benjamin is getting a full dose of almond butter.

Through testing, allergists see first-hand what Benjamin can tolerate. Prior tests showed he's severely allergic to peanuts.

"It's just going to be about teaching him that he can't eat peanuts. He can't eat peanut butter and why," his mom, Amy Durango, said.

Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan, with South Bay Asthma and Allergy, said parents often worry.

"Food allergy can be life-threatening, so it causes a constant worry in people," she said.

For some, just a taste could cause severe reactions such as anaphylactic shock, which causes the throat to swell. Until now, avoidance was the only treatment.

Marks-Cogan said Benjamin is a good candidate for a new immunotherapy called AR101. Preliminary research on these pills looks promising, after a year.

"About 70 percent were able to tolerate one peanut kernel," Marks-Cogan said.

Phase three trials showed it was safe and effective. The treatment trains the immune system not to overreact to peanuts.

"What it does do is minimize their risk for a severe life-threatening reaction if they were to accidentally eat peanut," said Marks-Cogan.

Benjamin's mother is hopeful.

"This gives us hope that through the pill, he'll be able to eventually tolerate peanuts. It will be less scary for him," Durango said.

But when this pill becomes available, it's important to remember that it's not a cure for allergies. Rather, doctors said, think of it as a life-preserver that could actually give a lot of peace of mind to the patients and their families.

Patients would have to take this medication for life, and it'll be about one to two years before AR101 is available.

By then Benjamin will be old enough to get treatment.
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