The United States Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug to treat children with peanut allergies on Jan. 31.
The drug, Palforzia, is a powdered medicine that can be sprinkled on foods to build up peanut tolerance for children diagnosed with a peanut allergy. According to the FDA, Palforzia is currently approved for patients ages 4-17 and use can be continued into adulthood.
After her son was diagnosed with a peanut allergy, Becky Bergman created the blog, “Peanut Allergy Mom,” to connect with other families affected by peanut allergies. Bergman said even though her 16-year-old son will most likely not receive this newly approved treatment, she is excited about the attention peanut allergies could get from this approval.
“It really opens the doors for enormous possibilities forward,” Bergman said. “It puts (peanut allergies) on the radar in the medical community.”
The estimated cost of Palforzia is $890 per month per year, but the company is willing to help patients by reducing the monthly cost to $20, according to The Washington Post.
“That price is insane, and I’m disappointed,” Bergman said. “We need to make sure this is affordable and accessible to all people with peanut allergies regardless of income, race or gender.”
Dr. Melinda McMichael, a staff physician for University Health Services, said a peanut allergy can cause an anaphylactic reaction with symptoms such as trouble swallowing, abdominal cramping and fainting.
McMichael said UHS does not have allergists to diagnose and prescribe treatment to students with food allergies, but UHS can administer injections prescribed by an outside allergist.
Azizza Williams, a 2018 UT alumna, said it has been hard to watch her siblings deal with mild to severe food allergies. She said her siblings’ experiences inspired them to create Allergy Ease 8, a clothing line with the mission of spreading awareness of food allergies.
“Food allergy awareness is very important,” Williams said. “A lot of people who I wouldn’t suspect have food allergies have them. It’s important to get the word out about food allergies and be a system of support for those with food allergies.”
Williams said Palforzia is a great step in developing treatments for food allergies, but she is concerned about how safe the drug is.
“I’m just hoping they have something in place for if things go wrong (with the drug),” Williams said. “There definitely needs to be a larger discussion on the security and safety because not everyone just breaks out in hives. Some people can actually die from food allergies.”
Lindsay Wilson, a registered dietitian for University Housing and Dining, helps students with dietary restrictions find on-campus meal options. Wilson said Cypress Bend Cafe and Littlefield Patio Cafe are UHD locations that offer a made-to-order meal option for students with food allergies.
“We have a separate area within each of those kitchens that has equipment and a pantry dedicated to students who are receiving meal accommodations,” Wilson said.
Wilson said J2 Dining’s Fresh and Simple Tastes line is free of the nation’s eight major food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, soy, wheat and peanuts.
Bergman said it’s an exciting time for people dealing with peanut allergies.
“We’ve come a long way in the last 10 years,” Bergman said. “But we still have huge strides to make, and I think we’re heading in that direction.”
Editor's note: This story was corrected to fix the name of Allergy Ease 8.