Pill could replace EpiPen for those with food allergies

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For people with life-threatening food allergies, the EpiPen is the first line of treatment. (WLS)

For people with life-threatening food allergies, the EpiPen is the first line of treatment. But the price of the pen has gone sky high, retailing at more than $600 for a pack of two in New York City. But what if a pill could one day replace the needle?

Jaime Riskin and her daughter Gabby spend a lot of time reading food labels.

"I'm allergic to nuts and shellfish," said Gabby.

They found out Gabby had severe food allergies when she was two and her preschool served peanut butter.

"She was covered in hives and her whole face swelled up," Jaime said.

Experts say food allergies in this country are on the rise.

"About three percent of children might be at risk of anaphylactic reactions due to food allergies. The first line of treatment should be epinephrine," said Dr. Mutasem Rawas-Qalaji, pharmaceutical researcher at Nova Southeastern University.

That means families like the Riskins need to keep an EpiPen with them at all times.

"There's always one in her backpack, there's always one in my purse, there's always one at school," said Jaime Riskins.

Gabby says she hopes she never needs the life-saving treatment.

"Because it's a needle and I've always been a little scared of needles," she said.

So Dr. Mutasem Rawas-Qalaji and his research team at Nova Southeastern University are working on an easier more user-friendly option.

"Using a tablet, a specialized developed tablet, under the tongue of the patient," he said.

The tablet would deliver the same amount of epinephrine the injection does, minus the needle.

"Once you place these tablets under the tongue they should disintegrate within ten seconds," said Dr. Rawas-Qalaji.

"I think the pill is an awesome idea," Gabby said.

Until then, Gabby and her mom will keep the EpiPen on hand and always read the ingredients first. The research team has met with the Food and Drug Administration and the plan is to start human trials in the next two years.

If you would like more information, check out the medical breakthroughs on the web at www.ivanhoe.com.
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