New peanut allergy treatment shows favorable results for local boy with severe case
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IDAHO FALLS – A new medical treatment for people with peanut allergies is a game-changer for William Burgin.
The 12-year-old from Idaho Falls has been extremely allergic to peanuts his entire life. His mom, Stephanie, tells EastIdahoNews.com she discovered it when he was 2 after her son ate something and went into anaphylactic shock.
A trip to the emergency room saved William’s life and in the years since, she’s come to realize just how potent her son’s allergy is.
“He touched a toy that someone else who ate a peanut butter sandwich touched, and he went into shock (again). It makes it really hard going to school, being around kids and touching things that could have (peanut) residue on it,” Stephanie says.
Food labels that indicate an item may contain peanuts or was made with equipment that had peanuts on it are a big no-no for William. Even trace amounts of skin contact with a peanut are dangerous for him, and for Stephanie, that makes daily life stressful.
When her son goes to school or a friend’s house, she has to send him with his own food to make sure he doesn’t ingest even the smallest remnant of a peanut.
Stephanie was pleasantly surprised to learn about a new FDA-approved treatment that was available during a trip to the doctor’s office six months ago. It’s called PALFORZIA and it’s designed to increase people’s tolerance level to peanuts.
William’s doctor, David Petty, D.O., at Idaho Allergy and Asthma Clinic in Idaho Falls, explains how it works.
“This is a purified peanut protein measured out into specific increments,” Petty says. “You start at a very minute dose and you try to get up to three milligrams worth of peanut. An entire peanut kernel is 300 milligrams.”
Petty says those who can eat three milligrams of peanut powder without having a reaction qualify to take it and the dosage gradually increases from there. The goal is to get the patient to the point where they can eat a whole peanut without having an adverse reaction to it.
“As long as you’re taking it daily, your body gets into this state where you’re tolerant of that dose. You have to eat more than that 300 milligram dose before you have an allergic reaction,” says Petty.
The medication was approved in March 2020 and was heavily researched and tested for about 10 years, Petty says.
Northeast Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports peanut allergies are the most common food allergy in children, and the second-most common food allergy in adults. There is a lot of research into potential treatment as a result.
Petty says a similar product called a peanut patch began testing around the same time. It proved to have less side effects but was only half as effective.
PALFORZIA was proven to be more effective in kids ages 4-17, Petty explains.
“(Experts) were working on it for years and years. It finally got approval and now we’re getting it out to the public, so it’s pretty awesome,” he says.
William took his first 300 milligram dose on Tuesday morning.
Knowing how sensitive her son’s allergy was, Stephanie is thrilled William qualified for the treatment. Six months later, she’s happy to report her son has responded favorably and they are delighted with the outcome.
“Other than (the fact) that he thinks (the peanut powder) tastes gross, it’s been easier than we thought,” Stephanie says.
Even though William has reacted favorably to the treatment, his allergy hasn’t gone away. His peanut intake will still need to be monitored, but Stephanie is ecstatic at the idea of being able to ease off slightly on being so rigid with his diet.
William currently attends school online through Bonneville Joint School District 93. Stephanie is looking forward to signing up her son for in-person classes in 2023.
William is Petty’s first PALFORZIA patient. He’s excited to see this outcome and hopes that it will provide a bigger sense of relief for him and his family.
“He’ll still need to be diligent (in taking his medication, watching his diet), and still carry an epipen, but that safety net just got bigger,” Petty says.