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Health Column: A TREAT for allergy sufferers

Scott Rollins
INTEGRATE YOUR HEALTH
Free Press Health Columnist
Man Sneezing
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Attention, allergy sufferers. There’s a new treatment that holds promise to stop the sniffling and sneezing. The “Transdermal Relief: Evaluating Allergy Topicals” study, or TREAT, is a three-year trial that evaluates folks using a topical cream as a method of immunotherapy for seasonal allergies. Here’s the punchline. If you qualify, you can get three years of allergy treatment at no direct cost.

Immunotherapy (IT) is recognized as the most curative treatment for allergies. By exposing the immune system to slowly increasing concentrations of an allergen it will eventually stabilize and regain control of the portion that is hypersensitive to the allergen. The exact mechanisms of how IT works are not fully understood, but they involve shifting a patient’s immune response from a predominantly “allergic” T-lymphocyte (TH2) response to a “non-allergic” T-lymphocyte (TH1) response.

IT started in the early 1900s and was based on the idea of the vaccine against infectious agents. Along those lines, the first IT efforts started as injections into the skin, and were found to be very effective and thus remain the standard method of delivery. Even in those early years, there was also interest in other routes of administration, such as oral, bronchial and nasal; but these methods were never adopted due to cost, mixed success and side effects.



Subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) is the common technique here in the U.S., which requires having to go the doctor’s office for weekly injections — a procedure that is expensive, time consuming and also dangerous.

In 1986 The British Committee for the Safety of Medications reported several deaths caused by SCIT, and raised serious concerns about the safety and the risk/benefit ratio of SCIT. About the same time cheaper and more effective drugs, such as anti-histamines and inhaled steroids, were becoming widely available. Amidst this backdrop, the interest in non-injected immunotherapy increased.



Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) involves taking “allergy drops” under the tongue where the allergens are absorbed in the oral mucosa. This has been a welcome alternative to allergy shots. Our clinical experience with SLIT has been excellent with patients using finding allergy relief during the first few months.

Enter yet another option for immunotherapy, a topical cream delivery method. This is the same concept as allergy shots or drops, just a different way to expose the body to the allergens. It is possible the topical therapy may work even better than the shots or drops and this is what the TREAT study is hoping to find out.

The protocol for application to TREAT is simple. After a short medical history, an application is submitted to determine if you qualify for the study. If you are enrolled, we perform skin testing in the office to determine allergies. Then you start applying the topical cream daily and report monthly on your progress. It’s that simple.

Just like other types of immunotherapy, the topical cream contains very dilute concentrations of the allergens that are involved. Over time the concentration is increased until an effective dose is found. The aim of the study is to evaluate whether this topical delivery method will prove effective in turning off the allergic response.

After years of success with the under-the-tongue allergy drops, we are excited to be part of the TREAT study. The idea of giving immunotherapy as a simple topical cream holds great promise as yet another safe, simple and inexpensive alternative to allergy shots. If you are interested in applying for the TREAT study, simply call our office at 970-245-6911 and schedule a no-cost appointment to get started.

Free Press health columnist Scott Rollins, M.D., is board certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other complex medical conditions. He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com) and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (www.bellezzalaser.com). Call 970-245-6911 for appointments or more information.


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