On Friday, a therapy drug call Palforzia was approved by the FDA for use against potentially life-threatening peanut allergies in adults and children. The Washington Post reports that the drug might be the key to transforming the lives of people who have to regulate so much of their food intake and even social interactions around their allergy. But the drug isn’t without controversy.
Now, people largely manage this dangerous allergy through avoidance and by keeping an epinephrine injection on standby in case of an emergency. Depending on a person’s level of sensitivity, this could be sufficient. Unfortunately, some people risk having a reaction after sharing a hug with someone who recently ate peanut butter or sitting in a chair where someone was eating a PB&J sandwich. Being on guard at all times is extremely stressful, especially when it comes to travel or eating new places—basically anywhere that isn’t a controlled environment.
Palforzia isn’t exactly a cure. Its maker, Aimmune Therapeutics, has been working on creating the drug and similar treatments for tree nut and egg allergies. Palforzia is a peanut protein that is gradually given to the patient under the supervision of the doctor, slowly desensitizing their allergies. The FDA has approved its use for children ages 4 to 17 and some doses can be taken at home, but it’s a delicate process. Some patients under treatment have still required epinephrine injections to counteract negative reactions to the drug.
Cost is also a major issue. It’s currently going to be given a list price of $890 per month, though the company says they’ll be offering an assistance program to make it possible for families to buy it for $20 a month. While there are physicians who currently offer a similar style of immunotherapy for peanut allergies, Palforzia is hoping to become the standard for dosages, making it easier for insurances to cover the process.
The cost and complications will likely shut out a number of patients. On the other hand, the uninsured can pay more than $300 for each EpiPen. Having a $300 treatment on standby might be the more cost-effective strategy for some patients. For those who have the money and who have seen their lives curtailed by peanut allergies, Palforzia promises freedom.