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Improved Allergy Shots Might Be on Horizon

THURSDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Allergy shots are time-tested treatments that reduce health care costs and can now provide relief to allergy sufferers within weeks instead of months, according to experts.

And while allergy shots are currently given under the skin (subcutaneously), new methods of allergy immunotherapy are being investigated, delegates heard at this week's annual scientific meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in Boston.

Those potential new techniques include:

  • Intralymphatic immunotherapy (ILIT), which involves injecting allergens into a lymph node. Initial research shows that this approach provides a longer-lasting and more effective response, suggesting the dose and length of treatment could be shortened.
  • Epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT) involves lightly scraping a patient's skin and then applying a patch that delivers the allergens through the bloodstream.

Accelerated allergy immunotherapy and the cost benefits of immunotherapy were also discussed at the meeting.

Conventional immunotherapy requires patients to receive an allergy shot once or twice a week for about five months. But "rush" and "cluster" immunotherapy methods feature accelerated schedules to shorten that treatment period.

Rush immunotherapy typically involves giving multiple injections to a patient two or three days in a row, but schedules may be shorter or longer based on circumstances. Cluster immunotherapy involves two to four injections, given 30 minutes apart, one day a week for three weeks.

"You shouldn't have to put your life on hold to treat your allergies," Dr. Richard Weber, ACAAI vice president, said in a college news release. "Accelerated schedules offer patients more flexibility, faster results and a treatment plan they are more likely to follow because it reflects their needs and busy lifestyle."

"Research shows accelerated schedules are safe and effective options, and they appeal to patients who do not want to commit to weekly allergy shots for five or six months," he added.

Not only is allergy immunotherapy highly effective, it can save thousands of dollars in health care costs per patient, according to a study presented at the meeting.

Researchers examined Florida Medicaid data and found that children with allergies who received allergy immunotherapy had nearly $6,000 less in health care costs over 18 months than children with allergies who did not receive allergy immunotherapy. Among adults, the amount saved over 18 months was more than $7,000.

Because this research was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"Allergy immunotherapy is a well-established, safe and effective treatment. Our research clearly shows that this treatment is also cost effective and these cost benefits occur almost immediately," Cheryl Hankin, president and chief scientific officer of BioMedEcon, said in the news release.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about allergy shots.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, news release, Oct. 27, 2011

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