IMMUNOTHERAPY

Immunotherapy, commonly known as allergy injections, refers to the periodic injection of extracts of allergens that the patient cannot completely avoid. Studies show that allergy immunotherapy reduces the degree of allergy and thereby reduces the severity of asthma and allergies and eliminates the need for the relentless use of expensive medications. The major objectives of immunotherapy are, in the short term, to reduce responses to allergic triggers which precipitate symptoms and eventually to decrease the inflammatory response, and to prevent the development of irreversible lung damage.

In 1998 the World Health Organization, recognized as the world authority on health care issues, published a position paper on allergy immunotherapy: Therapeutic Vaccines for Allergic Disease. The position paper is a first ever international guideline for the administration of allergy injections. The position paper discussed the proper treatment of allergic disease including asthma. It emphasized that drugs treat only symptoms, whereas allergen avoidance and immunotherapy (allergy injections) are the only therapeutic modalities which modify the natural course of the disease.

COST-EFFECTIVENESS OF IMMUNOTHERAPY FOR ASTHMA

Immunotherapy is appropriate for patients in whom an important role for allergic triggers has been demonstrated. The basic decision is whether to rely upon avoidance of trigger factors and suppression of diseases with medications through the many year course of asthma, or to use these measure plus immunotherapy, which gradually reduces the severity of the disease. Decreased need for expensive medications results in progressive monetary savings, since asthma can be expected to persist for many years or even to be a life-long condition. When the patient has both allergic rhinitis and asthma, as in the case of over half of asthmatics, both diseases can be expected to respond to the same immunotherapy resulting in clinical improvement and reduction in need for medications for both diseases.

* Information gathered from "Expert Care and Immunotherapy for Asthma, A review of Published Studies with Emphasis on Patient Outcome and Cost", Timothy J. Sullivan, M.D., John Selner, M.D., Roy Patterson, M.D., Jay Portnoy, M.D. and Morton Seligman, M.D., November 1996



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