The FDA approved its first drug to treat children's peanut allergies

  • The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug that would mitigate allergic reactions to peanuts for children aged 4 to 17 years old.

  • Palforzia comes in a powder form containing small amounts of peanut protein, which are administered in increasing doses until patients can tolerate the equivalent of multiple peanuts.

  • Researchers said that patients will still need to avoid exposure to peanuts, but the drug can reduce the risk of dangerous reactions.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved a drug to treat life-threatening allergic reactions for the approximately 1 million children with peanut allergies.

The drug, Palforzia, can be used by children aged between 4 and 17 years old to mitigate potentially deadly reactions to peanut exposure. Though patients will still be encouraged to avoid any exposure to peanuts, the drug will be an added measure to help children in the case of accidental contact with peanuts.

"Even with strict avoidance, inadvertent exposures can and do occur," Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, wrote in a statement. "When used in conjunction with peanut avoidance, Palforzia provides an FDA-approved treatment option to help reduce the risk of these allergic reactions in children with peanut allergy."

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Nina Nichols, an 18-year-old based in Washington, told The Associated Press that the drug provides a "safety blanket."

"It's been a life-changer," Nichols told the AP after participating in a Palforzia research study as a teenager.

Peanut allergies are one of the most common among American children, and can trigger a wide variety of reactions, including runny nose, stomach cramping, indigestion, hives, swelling, fainting, and anaphylaxis.

Palforzia can cause some of these side effects, particularly in its first two rounds of dosing, which the FDA requires that patients take in a special safety program under supervision in a certified health center.

The powder is made from small amounts of peanut protein and can be mixed by patients with a semi-solid food like yogurt or applesauce.

After the initial dose, it is increased every few weeks until after about six months, when the patient can tolerate the equivalent of about one peanut. In a study of nearly 500 children, two-thirds who received Palforzia could eat at least the equivalent of two peanuts.

Patients will need to continue the daily dose to continue protection, and users still must carry medicine like EpiPens in the case of a reaction.

Peanut allergies affect about 1 in 13 American children, and have been on the rise in recent years, making the issue a ripe area for innovation. Shots, patches, and oral drops are similar treatments that are also being weighed for peanut allergies, according to the AP.