New allergy pill preparing some sufferers for ragweed season

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OLATHE, Kan.  -- The grass pollen season will wind down over the next few weeks. Then ragweed season starts in mid-August. Some people allergic to ragweed are preparing by using a unique new pill that is an alternative to allergy shots.

Stefanie Parrish can enjoy late spring, but early fall is a different story. Parrish is severely allergic to ragweed pollen. Last month. Dr. Jeffrey Wald of Kansas City Allergy and Asthma put Parrish on the newly approved pill.

"That would help maybe prevent feeling miserable during those first fall months. I was all for it," she said.

The pill is called Ragwitek.

"It is purified ragweed extract," said Dr. Wald.

It builds immunity to the bad weed. Another pill also recently became available for timothy grass allergy. The options are  new for people afraid of allergy shots, and those who can't find the time to come to the doctor's office for them.

The pill was a good option for Parrish because she's had reactions to shots. She places the pill under her tongue once a day and waits a minute for it to dissolve. The first dose has to be given in the doctor's office, but after that, it can be done at home. Parrish keeps an EpiPen with her.

"Just like allergy shots, patients can react," said Dr. Wald.

Parrish says she hasn't had any big reactions.

"I have some tingling sometimes in my cheeks, but I have not had any kind of swelling," she said.

The pill must be started 12 weeks before ragweed season, so it's a little late now for this year if you haven't already started.

Dr. Wald doesn't think the pill will replace allergy shots. After all, most people with ragweed allergies are allergic to other things, too. In addition, the pill may not match the efficacy of shots.

"It looks like the shots are more effective," the allergy specialist said.

Large head-to-head studies haven't been done yet. Dr. Wald says it's also not known how long patients need to stay on the pill. He says it may take three to four years of year-round use to get the most benefit. And the pill isn't cheap. The doctor says many insurers aren't paying for it yet even though it is FDA-approved.


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