New tablets providing alternative for allergy sufferers - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

New tablets providing alternative for allergy sufferers

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BURKE, Va. -

It is that time of year when those of you who suffer from seasonal allergies are really having a tough time. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration approved new allergy tablets that offer an alternative to shots.

It has been decades since the medical community has had a new type of therapy to train our immune systems to become tolerant to things like grass or ragweed. For many of us, you just look at those things and your eyes start itching.

Allergy injections have been around for 100 years and have a 65 to 75 percent success rate in eventually freeing you of any allergy problems. Now there is another option.

I think this is a big deal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology,” said Dr. Talal Nsouli. “We've been waiting for years.”

There is no more waiting now. We traveled to Burke, Va., to find a nationally recognized allergy specialist to learn more about these brand new, once-a-day tablets that dissolve under your tongue and help your body build an immunity or tolerance to grass and ragweed pollens.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck developed Ragwitek and Grastek.

“It's a tiny tablet that dissolves in the mouth immediately,” Dr. Nsouli said. “As soon as you put it in, it vanishes.”

There are many over-the-counter options -- both in pill form and nasal spray. They are designed to help reduce the symptoms like sneezing. But the new tablets promise something more.

“Some patients do not like to take allergy shots,” said Dr. Nsouli. “[They] don’t have the time to come to the office to get allergy injections, therefore … they can take the tablets that are using the same mechanism. But instead of being injected, they are ingested.”

Dr. Nsouli is just starting to prescribe the allergy tabs. For those of you who don't like needles, the breakthrough pills offer the possibility of a permanent fix from your allergies.

The pills aren't cheap though. They cost $8 to $10 each and not all insurance companies will pay for them. And if you do take them, prepare to make a time commitment.

“They have to be taken every day on daily basis,” Dr. Nsouli said.

It is recommended they be taken for at least a year to a year and a half, according to the doctor. The idea is to desensitize your body to the allergens.

The pills have about a 35 to 38 percent effectiveness of permanently immunizing your body to the specific allergen. It's made for ragweed or grass pollen.

If you want them to work, you have to start 12 weeks prior to the season. So for instance, now would be the time to start taking the ragweed tablets since ragweed season doesn't began until mid-August.

These can also be very effective for pediatric patients.

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