Immunotherapy provides long-term asthma protection

Vienna, June 13, 2006. Specific immunotherapy produces very good responses to treatment in patients with allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma. New studies and a growing research database are continuously adding to the number of therapeutic indications. At the 25th Congress of the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) in Vienna, Lars Jacobsen, Denmark, presented 10-year data on the preventive benefit of specific immunotherapy (SIT) with intact allergens in asthma sufferers.

One in three people with allergic rhinitis goes on to develop asthma. This is because the propensity for an allergic response spreads from the nose to the bronchial mucosa. WHO and the ARIA initiative (Allergic Rhinitis and its impact on Asthma) therefore see allergic rhinitis as a major chronic respiratory disease that requires systematic treatment.

The Preventive Allergy Treatment (PAT) study presented by Jacobsen treated children with hay fever due to a grass and/or birch pollen allergy. The children in one group received purely symptomatic treatment while those in the other group underwent three-year subcutaneous SIT. Asthma was an exclusion criterion in both groups at the start of the study. The study was conducted with the participation of sites in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Austria and Germany.

The multicenter PAT trial shows that causal SIT with standardized functionally intact allergens prevents the development of asthma in around half the population of children with hay fever. This preventive effect is enduring: at 10-year follow-up, 24 out of 53 children - i.e. 45 percent - from the control group had gone on to develop asthma. In the active treatment group, however, only 16 out of 64 children (25 percent) had developed asthma. The figures indicate that three-year SIT provides long-term asthma prevention in at least one out of two children with allergic rhinitis. "Specific immunotherapy is the only causal treatment option for people with allergies. We now know that this treatment option also provides long-term protection against asthma," Jacobsen said.

Patients undergoing subcutaneous SIT receive regular injections of gradually increasing doses of an allergen product under the skin. This increases the immune system's tolerance to the allergens. SIT has reported response rates of up to 90 percent in subjects with pollen allergy. SIT produces long-term symptom relief and patients need fewer antiallergic drugs. In many cases, the immune system's allergic reactivity resolves completely - and the patients are cured of their allergies.

Press Office EAACI Congress 2006

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