SACRAMENTO (KTXL) -- Peanut allergies are a serious and growing health problem in the Western world, affecting millions of kids and their families.
But a fix could be on the way.
A small French biopharmaceutical company has developed a new product -- similar to a nicotine patch -- to help allergy sufferers significantly increase their peanut tolerance.
If all goes according to plan, DBV Technologies (DBVT) will begin selling its product to Americans in the first six months of 2018.
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The drug -- called Viaskin Peanut -- recently received special fast-track testing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
It's now set to enter Phase III trials by the end of this year, indicating the drug is far along in the testing stages.
The market for food allergy drugs could be extremely lucrative, worth nearly $21 billion a year, according to estimates in a U.S. research paper from 2013.
Peanut allergies are considered to be the leading food allergy, affecting roughly 2% of American children, up nearly four-fold since 1997, according to a 2010 research paper from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
See more on peanut consumption around the world:
Wonderful world of peanuts
New drug promises to help peanut allergies
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A Sri Lankan fruit vendor waits to sell peanuts in Colombo on March 3, 2015. Sri Lanka's new government will seek loans exceeding 4.0 billion USD from international lenders, including the IMF, as it 'restructures' expensive debt owed to China, the finance minister said. (Photo by Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani women separate loose material from peanuts at a market in Lahore on November 20, 2014. Pakistan was granted a USD 6.8 billion IMF bailout package last year to help the country achieve economic reforms, particularly in its troubled energy sector, but analysts warned gains the country has made are at risk. (Photo by Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)
Michael Lee, 9, each morning at 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., his mother, Geena Lee measures out exactly 6 grams of peanuts to give to her son, watches him to make sure he eats them and then observes him for the next hour to make sure he does not have an adverse reaction. (Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/MCT via Getty Images)
The desensitization regimen is intended to keep the patient's immune system from overreacting in the event of an accidental exposure to peanuts. (Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/MCT via Getty Images)
Farmers weed a peanut field on June 4, 2013 in Liaocheng, China. Chinese farmers were in busy farming season in recent days, as wheat harvest started around Mainland China. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
A woman sorts peanuts on February 23, 2013 in the central Senegalese village of Dinguiraye at a Chinese-owned warehouse. Peanut farming has brought wealth to Senegalese farmers, who have been selling their crop for higher prices to Chinese exporters while local oil producers speak of unfair competition. (Photo by Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images)
A peanut sorting machine operates on February 23, 2013 in the central Senegalese village of Dinguiraye at a Chinese-owned warehouse. Peanut farming has brought wealth to Senegalese farmers, who have been selling their crop for higher prices to Chinese exporters while local oil producers speak of unfair competition. (Photo by Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images)
Jars of Skippy peanut butter are displayed on a shelf at Cal Mart grocery store on January 3, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Hormel, the maker of Spam, announced that it will purchase the Skippy peanut butter brand from Unilever for $700 million in cash. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays reaches for a peanut during MLB game action against the Minnesota Twins on October 2, 2012 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Peanuts at the Farmers Market in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
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The latest round of Viaskin Peanut testing found that some patients who used the patch were able to eat the equivalent of four peanuts without a problem. Other test patients didn't experience such dramatic results, but researchers noted positive immune system changes that pointed to possible peanut desentization in the future.
But DBV, which has seen its share price surge by 135% in France over the past year, is not the only company working on a drug for peanut allergies.
The private U.S.-based Aimmune Therapeutics -- formerly Allergen Research Corporation -- is also working on a pill called AR101 that will help allergy sufferers become desensitized to peanuts.
Early this month it was granted the same type of fast-track approval from the FDA to speed up its testing process.
It's also looking to begin Phase III trials later this year.