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FDA OKs New Grass-Allergy Drug

WebMD News from HealthDay

April 15, 2014 -- For people with grass allergies who don't want allergy shots, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved an alternative: the grass pollen allergy drug Grastek.

This immunotherapy treatment -- the second approved by the FDA this month -- is a daily pill developed by Merck & Co. and ALK Abello of Denmark that dissolves under the tongue. Unlike medications that reduce allergy symptoms, this type of treatment reduces the immune system's sensitivity to allergens. Patients ages 5 to 65 can take the drug, which will be available in the United States later this month, according to a Merck news release.

Many patients with moderate to severe grass allergies experience sneezing, runny noses and itchy, watery eyes even while taking symptom-relieving medication, said Dr. David Bernstein, a professor in the division of immunology, allergy and rheumatology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "These patients often have multiple sensitivities. Some of these patients may be candidates for immunotherapy, but decline allergy shots," he added in the news release.

With the approval of Grastek, which contains extracts of timothy grass, allergy specialists now have another approach, Bernstein said.

Because of reported side effects, members of an FDA advisory committee that recommended the drug's approval suggested further studies to assess its safety in children. The drug is not for use by people with asthma.

Stallergenes' immunotherapy treatment for five types of grass pollen won FDA approval earlier this month.

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