FDA Approves Under-the-Tongue Pill for Grass Allergy

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Just in time for spring, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a new pill that people can put under their tongues to fight grass allergies.

The tablet, called Oralair, is made using five different types of grass that people are commonly allergic to. It’s the first so-called sublingual therapy to be approved in the U.S. for grass allergies, although it’s been used for several years in Europe.

The treatment can, in rare cases, cause a severe immune reaction so patients take the first dose in the doctor’s office under medical supervision. Patients start taking it daily four months before grass pollen season starts where they live.

The FDA says 30 million people in the United States and 500 million globally have the type of allergy commonly called hay fever, with sneezing and itchy eyes. There's no real cure but patients can take drugs such as antihistamines to treat the symptoms, or they can opt for allergy shots to reduce their overall sensitivity.

FDA advisers have recommended approval of similar needle-free treatments, including one called Grastek.