Trading allergy drops for shots

February 12, 2008 7:11:37 PM PST
Regular allergy shots help a lot of people, but finding the time to get them can be taxing. They actually don't work for about 25-percent of patients. Now there's a new form of allergy relief that could help.

The great outdoors can be a great source of pain for allergy sufferers like Mike Kuligowski.

"There was just periods of time when it was just absolutely miserable," says allergy sufferer, Mike Kuligowski.

Until recently, his allergies forced him to avoid the outdoors and get weekly shots.

"I tried to keep up with it, but I just couldn't do it," says Kuligowski.

Then, his doctor suggested trading in those weekly shots for just three drops a day under his tongue that he administers himself.

"That's it. Three times a day. It can't get any simpler," says Kuligowski.

It's called sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT. Patients get a bottle of purified antigen solution that's tailor-made for them. It's the same serum found in allergy shots, only more of it.

"What's nice is we are getting the science, we are getting objective results that sublingual immunotherapy does work," says allergy and immunology specialist, Dr. Mitchell Sollod, M.D.

Dr. Mitchell Sollod is a pediatric allergist with California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

"I think it's fascinating. It's a great combination of a very old technique, 30 plus years, and now modern science is catching up with the old technique," says Dr. Sollod.

The drops are not FDA approved in this country, but they've been used in Europe for about 40 years. The World Health Organization has approved them as an alternative to allergy injections.

"It is not unsafe. There have been no mortalities reported with it. There have been mortalities reported with allergy shots," says otolaryngologist, Dr. Suzette Mikula, M.D.

Insurance doesn't typically cover the cost, but patients like Mike Kuligowski say they'll gladly pay between $30 to $150 a month for relief.

Dr. Sollod won't prescribe the drops to his patients until there's FDA approval, but he predicts that will happen in a few years.

"I absolutely do believe that sublingual immunotherapy will become a standard here in the United States," says Dr. Sollod.

Therefore, allowing some allergy sufferers to trade shots for drops.

The drops start working for most patients in six to 12 months, and patients are usually fully immunized in three to five years. Some patients do have minor reactions such as itching or burning. The drops are not yet FDA approved in the U.S.

To learn more about the allergy drops and for information on the doctor profiled in this report, click here.