A Pill for Food Allergies: Medicine's Next Big Thing?

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For people with life-threatening food allergies the Epi-Pen is the first line of treatment. The price of the pen has gone sky high- retailing at more than $600 for a pack of two in New York City. (KFSN)

For people with life-threatening food allergies the Epi-Pen is the first line of treatment. The price of the pen has gone sky high- retailing at more than $600 for a pack of two in New York City. But what if a pill could one day replace the needle?

Jaime Riskin and her daughter Gabby spend a lot of time reading food labels.

"I'm allergic to nuts and shellfish," detailed Gabby.

They found out Gabby had severe food allergies when she was two and her preschool served peanut butter.

"She was covered in hives and her whole face swelled up," explained Jaime.

Experts say food allergies in this country are on the rise.

Mutasem Rawas-Qalaji, PhD, a pharmaceutical researcher at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, detailed, "About three percent of children might be at risk of anaphylactic reactions due to food allergies. The first line of treatment should be epinephrine." (Read Full Interview)

That means families like the Riskins need to keep an EpiPen with them at all times.

Jaime told Ivanhoe, "There's always one in her backpack, there's always one in my purse, there's always one at school."

Gabby said she hopes she never needs the life-saving treatment.

"Because it's a needle and I've always been a little scared of needles," explained Gabby.

So Rawas-Qalaji and his research team at Nova Southeastern University are working on an easier more user-friendly option, by "Using a tablet, a specialized developed tablet, under the tongue of the patient."

The tablet would deliver the same amount of epinephrine the injection does, minus the needle.

"Once you place these tablets under the tongue they should disintegrate within ten seconds," Rawas-Qalaji told Ivanhoe.

Gabby said, "I think the pill is an awesome idea."

Until then, Gabby and her mom will keep the EpiPen on hand and always read the ingredients first.

The research team has met with the Food and Drug Administration and the plan is to start human trials in the next two years.

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