Allergen immunotherapy (AIT) is the only treatment capable of providing long-lasting benefits and the potential to prevent the progression of allergic disease by inducing allergen-specific tolerance in the immune system.
Allergen avoidance and symptomatic treatments
Symptomatic drugs are often prescribed by physicians as first-line treatment to reduce the intensity of the symptoms and some also fight the inflammation caused by the allergy. However, despite their recognised efficacy on allergic symptoms, these drugs do not treat the root cause of the allergy.
- Allergen avoidance
Once a causative allergen is correctly identified, avoiding or minimising exposure to this allergen may help.
Allergen avoidance involves taking adequate measures to reduce the allergenic agent from the environments in which we live and limit our contact with it. Avoiding allergen exposure can be extremely difficult but is the first step towards improving the symptoms of allergy.
- Symptomatic drugs
Symptomatic drugs are effective during treatment and may reduce the severity of allergy symptoms, though these medications have no long-lasting effect when treatment is ended (source: www.allergyuk.org last accessed on May 11, 2016; Bousquet J, et al. Allergic Rhinitis and its Impact on Asthma (ARIA) 2008. Allergy 2008;63(S86):8-160).
However, despite their recognised short-term benefits in reducing allergic symptoms, symptomatic drugs do not treat the root cause of an allergy. As a result, they do not have long-term benefits and have limited potential to address the chronic health and quality of life burdens associated with respiratory allergies.
Desensitisation treatment, also known as allergen immunotherapy (AIT), uniquely alters the natural course of respiratory allergies. AIT is the only treatment capable of providing long-lasting benefits and the potential to prevent the progression of allergic disease by inducing allergen-specific tolerance in the immune system.
The disease burden of respiratory allergies is chronic and significant and the current standard of care for respiratory allergies has limited benefits for disease control, particularly over the long-term.
AIT is a targeted treatment which involves regularly exposing the patient to extracts of allergen that causes their allergy symptoms. Over time, this repeated exposure ‘retrains’ the immune system to become less sensitive to the allergen and reduce the inflammation it causes, enabling better control and ultimately long-lasting relief from allergy symptoms. By reducing allergy symptoms, AIT can reduce the need for symptomatic treatments and improve quality of life. Significant improvements can be achieved within the few months of treatment, however retraining the immune system to provide long-term benefits takes longer: in general, AIT should be continued for at least 3 years to ensure optimal long-term outcomes.
AIT is intended for patients with respiratory allergies and for whom symptomatic treatments are insufficient or not well tolerated and/or for those seeking a long-term solution for their disease. In New Zealand, AIT treatments have been registered for the treatment of patients as young as 5 years of age.
Only physicians with adequate training and experience in the treatment of allergic diseases. should prescribe AIT. To be effective in the long-term, AIT is recommended to be taken for at least three years. (Source: Marogna M. et al., Long-lasting effects of sublingual immunotherapy according to its duration : A 15-year study. J Allergy Clin Immunology, 2010).