NHS England to offer new treatment to help tackle peanut allergies

By Henry Sandercock
Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 1:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 1:34 pm
Palforzia, an oral drug, appears to reduce the risk of harm when a peanut allergy sufferer comes into contact with the foodstuff (image: Shutterstock)
Palforzia, an oral drug, appears to reduce the risk of harm when a peanut allergy sufferer comes into contact with the foodstuff (image: Shutterstock)

A potentially life-changing treatment for children who have a peanut allergy has been approved for use by NHS England.

Palforzia, an oral drug that helps to lessen the severity of symptoms after a reaction to peanuts, including anaphylaxis, has been acquired by the NHS following trials.

It could be a game changer for those who have peanut allergies, as well as their families, as the drug appears to limit the danger from accidentally consuming peanuts.

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Up to 600 children aged between four and 17-years-old are now expected to be treated over the next 12 months, and will become the first to receive the drug in Europe.

Peanut allergy sufferers can risk becoming very unwell if they come into contact with even the tiniest dose of peanut (image: Shutterstock)

Around 2,000 children will be treated in the year after.

Currently, peanut allergies affect one in 50 children in the UK.

What did the Palforzia allergy studies find?

Two large peanut allergy trials that have been described by charity the Anaphylaxis Campaign as “rigorous” were undertaken at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

One of these, the Artemis study, found that around 60% of children and teenagers who reacted to about 10g of peanut protein at the start of the trial were able to take a dose of 1,000mg of it by the end - a dose well above the amount allergy sufferers could accidentally come into contact with.

The other trial - the Palisade study - was so effective that the family of one of its participants said the treatment had changed their lives.

Sophie Pratt, whose daughter Emily, 9, took part said: “The treatment we received has meant that Emily is free from limits and the fear that the tiniest mistake could put her life at risk, and it has removed all the tension and worry that the simple act of eating loomed over us every day.

One of the Palisade trial’s participants Emily Pratt, 9, had her life changed by the peanut allergy treatment, her mother said (image: PA/family handout)

“It was particularly noticeable at special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and on holidays, where there are often special foods like cakes, ice cream and treats that invariably had warnings, ‘may contain peanuts’ or menus not in English.

“Since the trial, Emily can go to parties and playdates with confidence, eat in restaurants without us having to call ahead to check the menu, and we’ve managed to have her first holiday abroad to New York and even taken part in feeding animals at zoo experiences – which is Emily’s passion. We could not be more grateful.”

What has been the reaction to the announcement?

Reacting to the news that the drug would roll out to children across England, NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis said the “pioneering treatment” could prove to be “life-changing”.

“It will reduce the fear and anxiety for patients and their families who may have been living with this allergy for years, and carrying around emergency medication just in case.

“They should be able to enjoy meals out or holidays abroad together without worrying about an allergic reaction that could land them in hospital or worse.”

Professor George du Toit, a children’s allergy consultant at Evelina London who was the senior investigator for the UK for both of the trials said the new drug was a “significant step forward” for improving the care allergy sufferers receive.

Whilst welcoming the announcement, charity Allergy UK said it looked “forward to this treatment being available to families throughout the UK”.

“The rollout of Palforzia through the NHS is truly wonderful news and we warmly acknowledge the work and commitment that has gone into the research and development of this pioneering treatment,” said Head of Clinical Services at Allergy UK Amena Warner.

“Its potential impact on the quality of life of both parents and their children will be very significant indeed.”