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FDA expands use of asthma drug Xolair to treat severe food allergies

The FDA recently made a significant decision regarding the use of Xolair, a medication primarily used to treat asthma, extending its application to help individuals grappling with severe food allergies. This news, announced on Friday, marks a groundbreaking milestone as it represents the first time a drug has been approved to mitigate allergic reactions triggered by inadvertent exposure to food allergens.

Xolair, also known by its generic name omalizumab, can now be administered to patients as young as one year old through injections every two to four weeks. This expanded approval offers hope to millions of Americans facing potentially life-threatening food allergies.

While Xolair provides a layer of protection, patients must still adhere to strict avoidance of known food triggers such as peanuts, cashews, milk products, and eggs. However, the medication enables them to tolerate larger amounts of these foods without experiencing severe reactions, alleviating the constant fear and anxiety associated with accidental allergen exposure.

Dr. Robert Wood, from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, praised the FDA’s decision as “life-changing” for allergy sufferers. The approval is backed by a study demonstrating that Xolair significantly increases tolerance to allergens, with about 68% of participants showing improved tolerance to peanut protein.

Previously, Xolair was used “off-label” for treating food allergies, but its full approval marks a significant milestone. As a monoclonal antibody, Xolair blocks the body’s natural response to allergens and has been successfully used to treat asthma, nasal polyps, and chronic hives.

However, Xolair does come with potential side effects, including injection site reactions, fever, joint pain, and malignancies. Additionally, the medication can trigger anaphylaxis, emphasizing the importance of initiating treatment in a healthcare setting equipped to manage severe reactions.

While Xolair’s list price is relatively high, most insured patients typically pay less out of pocket. With this groundbreaking FDA approval, Xolair opens up new possibilities for individuals with severe food allergies, offering a glimmer of hope and relief from the constant threat of life-threatening reactions.

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