FDA OKs Palforzia, First Drug for Peanut Allergy in Children

Alicia Ault

January 31, 2020

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first drug to combat peanut allergy in children, (Palforzia, Aimmune Therapeutics), although those who take it must continue to avoid peanuts in their diets.

The peanut (Arachis hypogaea) allergen powder is also the first drug ever approved to treat a food allergy. It is not a cure, but it mitigates allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, that may occur with accidental exposure to peanuts, the FDA said in a news release.

Treatment with the oral powder, which is mixed into semisolid food — such as applesauce or yogurt — can be started in children aged 4 through 17 years who have a confirmed peanut allergy and then continued as a maintenance medication. Some one million American children have peanut allergy, and only a fifth will outgrow the allergy, the agency said.

"Because there is no cure, allergic individuals must strictly avoid exposure to prevent severe and potentially life-threatening reactions," said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in the statement.

An FDA advisory panel backed the medication in September 2019, as reported by Medscape Medical News, but some committee members expressed concern about the large number of children in clinical trials who required epinephrine after receiving a dose of Palforzia.

The initial dose phase is given on a single day, while updosing consists of 11 increasing doses over several months. If the patient tolerates the first dose of an increased dose level, they may continue that dose daily at home. Daily maintenance begins after the completion of all updosing levels.

The drug will carry a boxed warning on the risk of anaphylaxis with the drug, and the FDA is requiring a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS).

Palforzia will be available only through specially certified healthcare providers, healthcare settings, and pharmacies to patients enrolled in the REMS program, the agency said. Also, the initial dose escalation and first dose of each updosing level can be given only in a certified setting.

The agency said that patients or parents or caregivers must be counseled on the need for constant availability of injectable epinephrine, the need for continued dietary peanut avoidance, and on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis.

"Eagerly" Awaited

Palforzia's effectiveness was based on a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving about 500 peanut-allergic individuals that found that67.2% of allergic patients tolerated an oral challenge with a single 600-mg dose of peanut protein with no more than mild allergic symptoms after 6 months of maintenance treatment, compared with 4% of placebo recipients, the FDA said.

In two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies looking at safety, the most commonly reported side effects among about 700 individuals involved in the research were abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, tingling in the mouth, itching (including in the mouth and ears), cough, runny nose, throat irritation and tightness, hives, wheezing, and shortness of breath and anaphylaxis.

Palforzia should not be given to those with uncontrolled asthma and can't be used for emergency treatment of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.

"The food allergy community has been eagerly awaiting an FDA-approved treatment that can help mitigate allergic reactions to peanut and, as allergists, we want nothing more than to have a treatment option to offer our patients that has demonstrated both the safety and efficacy to truly impact the lives of patients who live with peanut allergy," said Christina Ciaccio, MD, chief of Allergy/Immunology and Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center and Biological Sciences, in a company statement from Aimmune. "With today’s approval of Palforzia, we can — for the first time — offer children and teens with peanut allergy a proven medicine that employs an established therapeutic approach."

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