February 8, 2021

Report urges holistic approach to new allergy therapies

As scientific research continues to expand the possibilities for treating food allergy, the development and rollout of new medical therapies must be combined with support that takes into account patients’ other needs, concludes a new paper published in the journal Current Treatment Options in Allergy.

Therapies such as the novel oral immune treatment for peanut allergy, while very welcome in the management of disease, also can introduce new stressors for patients and families, says the report, which was co-authored by MHWFAC advisor Mary Jane Marchisotto, a longtime leader in the global food allergy research, education and advocacy communities.

Tools to address issues ranging from anxiety to medication compliance, and attention to healthcare disparities among disadvantaged populations, must be established along with the clinical administration of new treatments, the authors suggest.

Psychosocial support from a trained counselor might, for example, provide age-appropriate skills building and coaching for parents in the management of a daily dosing regime, something most food allergy families are not accustomed to organizing.

“There is potential for severe allergic reactions if adherence is poor; thus, the behavioral aspects of treatment are of paramount importance,” the study said.  “There are far too few mental health professionals with expertise in food allergy in the US to provide care to patients and families who need it; training programs for mental health professionals are needed and allergy clinics are encouraged to think about ways to develop multidisciplinary teams that include mental health professionals.”

In addition, attention to burdens any new therapies may place on families with fewer resources should be considered in the development of new treatments.  Cost is a factor but also time, effort, the number and frequency of office visits a therapy might require of already time-pressed families.

“Lack of access to allergists may also inhibit knowledge of and access to food allergy treatments,” the study said.  “Recent work confirms that disparities in (oral immunotherapy) knowledge exists by socioeconomic status and that further outreach initiatives are needed to disseminate information and provide equitable access.”

The paper, “Patients’ Perspectives and Needs on Novel Food Allergy Treatments in the United States,” was written by leading clinical researcher Brian Vickery, MD and clinical psychologist Linda Herbert, PhD, in addition to Ms. Marchisotto. 

Read the full publication here.