The First-Ever Drug to Treat Peanut Allergies Is Coming

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The world’s first peanut-allergy drug is officially on its way. Aimmune Therapeutics, a major US biotech company, just wrapped up a large clinical trial and found that about two-thirds of children and teenagers who were administered with its drug for one year were able to tolerate at least 660 mg of peanut protein (or about two nuts) compared with a small 4 percent of patients on a placebo.

According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), peanut is among the top food allergies in the U.S.: about 2 percent of us have the condition; four times higher than in 1997. So how can a drug keep the severe allergy at bay? Based on a theory that exposing young people to small amounts of their own allergen will retain their immune systems to better cope with the real thing, the capsules were filled with pharmaceutical-grade peanut protein and were snapped open each day and sprinkled over the participants’ food.

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The results were positive, for the most part, but the trial did not come without some adverse results, either. According to the company, two patients discontinued the study—one had an anaphylactic shock and the other displayed wheezing—but Stephen Dilly, chief executive of Aimmune, says that’s to be expected. “We are giving kids the very protein that they are allergic to. We expect to cause some allergic reactions because that’s how the drug works.”

Aimmune plans to launch the medicine, now named AR101, in the U.S. later this year, and analysts, as Financial Times reports, are predicting AR101 could generate as much as $1 billion per year. The drug is obviously not approved by the FDA just yet (it needs to launch first), but because the results from the 554-patient trail were much more straightforward than investors were initially expecting; it’s being suggested that the approval will be seamless once the time comes. Until then, we can only keep our fingers crossed.