Growing controversy over peanut allergy treatment

At issue, should oral immunotherapy – OIT- be offered as standard treatment?

The New England Food Allergy Treatment in Connecticut is the only one in the region offering oral immunotherapy – OIT as a treatment for peanut allergy
Courtesy: WTNH

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – At issue, should oral immunotherapy – OIT- be offered as standard treatment?

The New England Food Allergy Treatment in Connecticut is the only one in the region offering it.

The first thing you notice when you walk into the center is the artwork — papering the walls.
Drawn by children, thankful they’ve overcome food allergies, mostly their peanut allergies.

9 year old William Tucker is among them.

“I really don’t worry as much anymore but I still worry a bit but not as much,” says William.

His mom, Katherine says, “We were concerned about anaphylaxis with any kind of accidental exposure.”

Not as much since William started oral immunotherapy two years ago.

It begins with eating miniscule amounts daily of the food they can not eat with increased dosages over a period of time.

In the next room are Kim Oleksinski and her son Alex. They drove in from just outside Boston. the 13 year old is going through early stages of OIT for his peanut allergy.

Kim explains, “They’ve had a really high success rate so we were really comfortable with this facility. He’s eating what’s the equivalent of over a half of a peanut now with his dose.”

“It takes away the fear of like,” says Alex, “oh, if I eat a little bit then I may have an anaphylactic reaction. It totally took that away from me.”

Still — more often than not — the academic medical research community only offers OIT in clinical trials, citing no long term data on its effectiveness.
And it’s not FDA approved.

Medical Director, Dr. Jeffrey Factor says, “This is not really a drug. It’s a treatment for food with peanut flour or other nut flours. We’ve been able to effectively desensitize and treat over 90 percent of the patients.”

Critics in published reports also point out that here is no standard protocol for treatment.

“Although it’s not quote a “research protocol” we’ve used what has been tried and true in research setting, ” says Dr. Factor.

The criticism is levied by prominent specialists.

He says, “But they are not out there necessarily in the trenches, seeing patients. And I think I would say to them, look at how successful this treatment has been for so many patients in terms of improving their quality of lives.”

Meanwhile, William is now able to eat 12 peanut M & M’s every day.

The bottom line, Dr. Factor says there is no guarantee oral immunotherapy will work but it is an option for families.
In fact, he says did not work for 60 to 70 patients of the over 700 patients they have treated.

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