Xolair gives food allergy sufferers extra protection from sever reactions, relief in everyday life

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Monday, February 19, 2024
Food allergy sufferers glad for extra protection of Xolair
Now approved for food allergies, Xolair, generic name omalizumab, provides allergy symptom relief and extra protection against severe reactions.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- After the FDA approved a medication called Xolair to help lessen the severity of an accidental allergic reaction in people who are allergic to multiple foods, sufferers say they're relieved.

Xolair, which is developed and co-promoted by Genentech and Novartis in the US, was originally approved in 2003 for the treatment of moderate to severe persistent allergic asthma in certain people.

Omalizumab, the generic name for Xolair, is given by injection in 75-milligram (mg) to 600-mg doses once every two or four weeks by a health care provider or at home through self-injection, according to Novartis. Dose and dosing frequency are determined by a patient's weight.

Alaina Errico never travels without her EpiPen. She has a severe allergy to nuts and sesame, which if she consumes can cause serious trouble: hives, vomiting and trouble breathing which can be life-threatening.

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"Definitely scary. Everything I do, the first thought I think, what am I going to eat, how am I going to eat," she said.

Errico said she's thrilled that Xolair is now approved for a wide variety of food allergies. While it had previously been available only to a small group of people now patients from ages 1 to 55 can get injections that can lessen the risk of severe allergic reactins.

"This medicine is directed against the allergy antibody, so it's not food specific. So it would a great option for patients with multiple food allergies," said Dr. Abigail Lang, Lurie Children's Hospital.

But it's not cheap. Xolair can run about $5,000 a month and at this point may not be covered by insurance. Doctors said patients must continue to avoid foods that cause allergic reactions, but Xolair can provide some protection and peace of mind if patients are accidentally exposed.

"This is what we've been waiting for. It's a big break-through. We don't currently have many FDA approved treatments," said Dr. Ruchi Gupta, director of food allergy research at Northwestern Medicine.

Errico is in law school, studying rules regarding food labeling and other issues specific to food allergies. She has had to use her EpiPen, followed by a trip to the emergency room, several times, and she would like to keep it from happening again, for herself and the estimated 6% of the population with food allergies.

"That is fantastic and really positive and exciting to see such developments for people that deal with allergies every single day," she said.

Doctors say Xolair is not a cure for food allergies, but if you're accidentally exposed it can help prevent a severe reaction and a trip to the hospital.

The CNN-Wire contributed to this report