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Ragweed Immunotherapy Pill Approved

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Flowering Ragweed
(Photo : Flickr: Lodahln) Flowering Ragweed

The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved the first immunotherapy pill designed to treat the ragweed allergy for U.S. sale and distribution, providing allergy sufferers a new option in how they chose to treat their condition.

The pill, called Ragwitek, contains a slow-working dose of ragweed pollen extract. Much like standard allergy shots, the Ragwitek pill is designed to expose an allergy sufferer to pure but harmless levels of the allergen on a daily basis, encouraging the body to develop a resistance to the adverse responses the allergen normally earns from a confused immune system.

Because Ragwitek is a pill that is placed under the tongue to dissolve, it can be taken anywhere. This makes it an ideal treatment option for allergy suffers who do not have the time to visit a clinic weekly or biweekly to receive immunotherapy injections.

The approval of Ragwitek also makes it the first take-home immunotherapy pill available to American consumers that treats the ragweed allergy, but it is far from the first immunotherapy pill.

French drug company Stallergenes' Oraliar, a pill designed to specifically build a resilience to grass pollen allergies, was the first immunotherapy pill to hit the U.S. market and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at the start of this month.

Merick and Co., the producer of Ragwitek, quickly followed in Stallergenes' wake, gaining approval for Grastek, a pill that also treats the grass-pollen allergy, on Monday.

Now Merick appears to have the upper hand in this race to produce the first of many take-home immunotherapies, winning approval for a ragweed pill which will help allergy sufferers treat one of the most common allergies in the United States.

Back in February, Viaskin, another take-home immunotherapy idea in the form of a patch, announced that they were starting clinical trials to test the safety and effectiveness of Viaskin Peanut, which could treat the deadly and currently untreatable peanut food allergy.

The FDA announced Ragwitek's approval on April 17.

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Apr 20, 2014 09:21 PM EDT

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