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Got Hay Fever? New Tablets vs. Allergy Shots


One drawback of the tablets is that they might not cover everything people are allergic to, Lin says. Shots can be tailored to a person's needs. “In the United States, a lot of people are sensitive to more than one thing,” she says.

Q. How long do you have to take these tablets?

A. Grastek’s label says you should begin taking the tablets 8 to 12 weeks before and then during the pollen season. Grastek may be taken for up to 3 years.

Oralair’s label says you should start taking the tablets 4 months prior to and through the pollen season. Ragwitek’s label says you should begin treatment 12 weeks before and then during the pollen season.

Some studies suggest that people with allergies who take the tablets only during pollen season still benefit, Cox says.

With all three pills, you’re supposed to take the first tablet in your doctor’s office in case you have a severe reaction. Such a reaction, called anaphylaxis, is thought to be less likely with the tablets than with the shots. But because anaphylaxis can happen later with the tablets, the labels call for patients to have injectable epinephrine at home to treat it. Epinephrine can slow down or stop the reaction.

Q: What about other side effects?

A. For Grastek and Oralair, the most common side effects are an itchy mouth, throat irritation, and mouth swelling. Side effects for Ragwitek include mouth itching, and ear and throat irritation.

Q. Can children take Oralair, Grastek or Ragwitek?

A. Oralair is approved for ages 10 to 65, while Grastek is approved for ages 5 to 65. Ragwitek is approved only for adults ages 18 to 65.

Q. How much do the tablets cost?

A. The wholesale price of both Grastek and Ragwitek will be $8.25 per pill, or $247.50 for a 30-day supply, says Merck spokeswoman Pamela Eisele. The wholesale price of Oralair will be $10 per pill, or $300 for a 30-day supply, says Andrea Moody, a spokeswoman for Greer Laboratories, which is marketing the drug in the United States.

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