Allergen avoidance is the first stage and currently only treatment for food allergy. Respiratory allergies are mainly treated with symptomatic drugs which alleviate the symptoms without any curative impact on the causes of the disease. Immunotherapy is the sole therapeutic strategy that targets the underlying causes of allergy.
Prescribed as first line therapy for respiratory allergy, symptomatic treatments reduce the severity of symptoms and counter the inflammation caused by allergic reactions. The effect is brief, and they must be taken throughout the whole period of exposure to allergens, and in some cases even prior. Side effects include drowsiness and sedation, impacting patients’ quality of life and productivity.
Symptomatic treatment for allergic rhinitis is estimated at $10 billion in the seven major markets. However, the market has recently been affected by the patent expiry of most major symptomatic drugs, resulting in an increased generic competition and price pressure. Total symptomatic allergic rhinitis sales are forecasted to remain flat until 2025.
According to IQVIA, sales of bronchodilators and asthma products reached $36.0 billion in 2010 and $39.4 billion in 2011, making these drugs the second largest therapy class in the world, just behind oncology drugs and ahead of anti-diabetic medications or lipid regulators.
Desensitization, sometimes referred to as allergen immunotherapy (AIT) or specific immunotherapy (SIT) is the only treatment that resets the immune system, switching the response to allergens from abnormal to normal by targeting the cause of the allergy. It consists of administering progressively higher doses of allergens in order to restore normal functioning of the immune system. Immunotherapy is probably the best available alternative to current symptomatic treatment.
As a result, immunotherapy is currently a long and expensive treatment with cumbersome regimens. This leads to low patient acceptance and low treatment compliance. Only 50% of the patients with poorly controlled allergy are accepting current immunotherapy treatments, of which only 30% comply with the full treatment schedule. Therefore, there is a clear need for a safe and effective immunotherapy treatment.