A Pill for Food Allergies: Medicine’s Next Big Thing?


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — For people with life-threatening food allergies the Epi-Pen is the first line of treatment.  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,” detailed 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,” explained Jaime.

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

Mutasem Rawas-Qalaji, PhD, a pharmaceutical researcher at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, detailed, “About three percent of children might be at risk of anaphylactic reactions due to food allergies. The first line of treatment should be epinephrine.” (Read Full Interview)

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

Jaime told Ivanhoe, “There’s always one in her backpack, there’s always one in my purse, there’s always one at school.”

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

“Because it’s a needle and I’ve always been a little scared of needles,” explained Gabby.

So Rawas-Qalaji and his research team at Nova Southeastern University are working on an easier more user-friendly option, by “Using a tablet, a specialized developed tablet, under the tongue of the patient.”

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,” Rawas-Qalaji told Ivanhoe.

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

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.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Janna Ross, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Judy Reich, Videographer.



TOPIC:       A Pill for Food Allergies: Medicine’s Next Big Thing?

REPORT:   MB #4214


BACKGROUND:  Food allergies occur when the body has a reaction to a specific food that was consumed. The immune system overreacts and identifies such food as a danger, triggering a protective response. Food allergies affect an estimated four to six percent of children in the United States and four percent of adults. The symptoms of these allergies are more prevalent in babies and children, but the reaction can occur at any age. One can suddenly become allergic to a food that has been eaten for years.
(Source: http://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergy)

FOOD ALLERGIES: While any type of food can cause an allergic reaction, the eight types of food that account for 90 percent of food allergies are: peanuts, tree nuts, soy, milk, eggs, wheat, shellfish, and fish. Not all reactions to food are the same; some may be mild while others may be severe. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Repetitive cough
  • Tight throat that causes difficulty affecting breathing and talking
  • Swelling of the tongue making it difficult
  • Pale or blue skin
  • Dizziness

The most severe reaction is anaphylaxis. It can impair breathing, cause a dramatic drop in blood pressure, and affect the heart rate. It can occur within minutes of being exposed to a specific food and it can be fatal. The only solution to treating it is with an injection of epinephrine.
(Source: http://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergy)

MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGH: An injection of epinephrine is the only solution when a person is suffering from an anaphylaxis food allergy reaction. Even though it is live saver, it also comes with some cons that researchers are trying to improve. For starters, injections can be scary and uncomfortable. Furthermore, the Epi-Pen injections are bulky and can be costly. The auto-injectors need to be replaced almost every year because they don’t have a long shelf life. Mutasem Rawas-Qalaji and his research team at Nova Southeastern University are currently working on an easier, more user friendly option: an epinephrine pill.  The pill would be placed under the tongue of the patient and would deliver the same amount of drug at the same time the injection does. The tablet breaks down very quickly when it touches saliva. It also protects against human error. The research team plans to start human trials in the next two years.
(Source: Dr. Mutasem Rawas-Qalaji)


Marla Oxenhandler

Public Relations




If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Mutasem Rawas-Qalaji, B. Pharm., Ph.D.

Read the entire Q&A