Trenton - The drug company Merck & Co. said Wednesday that federal regulators review its request to put on sale a new type of treatment that gradually reduces the symptoms of hay fever, rather than a temporary solution that relieves sneezing and itching.
The treatment, which consists of a rapidly dissolving tablet under the tongue, the first alternative may be available in the United States rather uncomfortable to wear a series of allergy shots. Both methods operate gradually desensitizing the patient's immune system to a substance that causes the allergic reaction.
Immunotherapy pill from Merck, which still has no name, would have to be taken daily throughout allergy season for three years.
The company said that six studies were conducted during the last stage of testing the tablet, in nearly 3,500 adults and children. The studies were conducted during the season of peak pollen in the summer and spring, and found that the pill was safe and effective in reducing symptoms of allergy to grass. These are, the runny nose, congestion, sneezing, watery eyes and itching of these.
The most common side effect is itching of the ears and mouth and throat irritation.
"This product will be used by tens of millions of people," predicted Steve Brozak, an analyst with WBB Securities. "Patients will adopt it quickly."
Brozak said Merck expected to be a strong consumer advertising campaign hoping to attract both patients who are considering receiving allergy shots as the others who regularly buy drugs in pharmacies in order to relieve symptoms.
Dr. Linda Cox, president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, immunotherapy tablets described as a "major advance" in treating patients because they have been developed from multiple types of the most common allergies.
Based on information gathered from studies for experimental treatment and a French company Merck developed, patients would only have to take an occasional antihistamine for at least a couple of years after the end of treatment, said Dr. Cox.
Immune therapy is the only treatment that targets the root cause of an allergy to substances such as pollen, dust, insect bites and animal dander.
Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, expressed confidence that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA for its acronym in English) decide to approve the treatment in the first quarter of next year.