For a million of red- nosed, bleary- eyed Britons, relief from hay fever may soon be a pill away. The release of Grazax, a vaccine pill, designed to prevent allergic reactions like a running nose, itching eyes, sneezing etc. is promised next month.
The vaccine pill contains small amounts of Timothy grass pollen; main allergens in hay fever, and are to be taken daily, eight weeks before hay fever season.
This pill follows the hay fever vaccine injection. This too contains protein derivatives of pollen allergens and is based on immunotherapy too. It promises a respite of 3 years from hay fever after being taken. The drawbacks of the injection vaccine could be serious side effects in one out of 500 cases in addition to the disinclination of many to take monthly jabs. In contrast the pill reports minor side effects like localized swelling under the tongue, where it is placed or mild itching in some persons. The fact that monthly injections can be replaced with popping a pill surely scores for the new vaccine pill.
Grazax manufactured by Danish company ALK-Albello has been granted approval for sale in 27 countries including UK. Costs of treatment though run high. Hundreds of thousands of pounds an year will be incurred by the national health services when the pill is released for prescription.
Trials conducted in hundreds of miserable hay fever suffers have given dramatic results, bettering even usual treatments of anti-histamines and steroid nasal sprays.
As says Professor Stephen Durham, of Imperial College London, who is investigating the long-term benefits of the drug, "One in four people suffers from hay fever. It can have a severe effect on quality of life; it interferes with sleep, and interferes with work, and children with hay fever can drop a grade at school. I believe about 10 per cent of the hay fever population, potentially a million patients in the UK could benefit from this treatment."