Children in England with peanut allergies will be the first in Europe to receive life-changing treatment after the NHS secured a deal for a new oral treatment.
Palforzia, which has already been approved for use in the US, helps reduce the severity of symptoms, including anaphylaxis, after a reaction to peanuts.
How does it work?
Its makers say it helps children gradually decrease their sensitivity to peanuts over time through a process called oral immunotherapy, or OIT.
Under supervision, it involves giving tiny doses of peanut protein that increase gradually from 0.5 mg to 6 mg, with a series of steps becoming available depending on whether it is having an effect.
Studies have transformed lives
Evelina London Children’s Hospital took part in two large peanut allergy trials – the Palisade and Artemis studies – which have transformed the lives of some of its participants.
Nine-year-old Emily, who took part in the Palisade trial, can now eat out in restaurants and go on holiday with her family without fear.
Her mother Sophie Pratt said the clinical trial “has changed our whole family’s lives”.
She added: “The treatment we received has meant that Emily is free from limits and the fear that the tiniest mistake could put her life at risk, and it has removed all the tension and worry that the simple act of eating loomed over us every day.
“It was particularly noticeable at special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and on holidays where there are often special foods like cakes, ice cream and treats that invariable had warnings, ‘may contain peanuts’ or menus not in English.”
What did the Artemis study find?
The study found around six in 10 participants aged four to 17 who reacted to around 10mg of peanut protein at the start of the trial were able to take a dose of 1,000mg by the end – well above the amount of accidental exposure.
Around 600 children aged four to 17 are expected to be treated with Palforzia this year – with those in England to be the first to receive the treatment in Europe due to a deal struck by the NHS.
After that, some 2,000 children a year will be treated.
In the UK, peanut allergies currently affect one in 50 children.
The makers of Palforzia say it is not a cure and children who use it still need to carry epinephrine and avoid eating peanuts.
‘Treatment can be life-changing’
NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “This pioneering treatment can be life-changing for patients and their families and, thanks to the deal the NHS has struck, people here will be the first in Europe to benefit.
“It will reduce the fear and anxiety for patients and their families who may have been living with this allergy for years, and carrying around emergency medication just in case.
“They should be able to enjoy meals out or holidays abroad together without worrying about an allergic reaction that could land them in hospital or worse.”
Professor George du Toit, children’s allergy consultant at Evelina London, was senior investigator for the UK for both of the trials and called the rollout of the treatment “great news” for children and young people with peanut allergies.
“This will make a huge impact to the everyday lives of our patients and their families,” he added.