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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 March, 2005, 04:06 GMT
A tablet a day to keep hay fever at bay?
Jane Elliott
BBC News Health Reporter

Guy Young
Guy Young suffers from hay fever

A tablet could soon eradicate summer misery for the many thousands of UK hay fever sufferers, scientists hope.

The Homerton University Hospital, in north London, has been recruiting patients for a year-long trial.

It is already four years into a separate study of how injections can be used to de-sensitise patients of their allergy. This study has already shown promising results.

But Andrew Williams, a clinical nurse specialist for allergies, said that, if successful, a tablet could revolutionise how the hospital treats patients.

Two recent studies of the tablet, made from grass pollen, have already shown good results.

But the true benefits will not become clear until the summer.

Easy to take

"Using a tablet would be much better as they could be taken at home by the patient," said Mr Williams.

"Many patients do not like injections and they have to stay at the hospital for an hour after they have had them.

There are a lot of people who find the idea of going for injections a bit scary
Muriel Simmons

"Using a tablet would also allow us to see more patients. Instead of seeing the 35 I currently see each year, I would be able to see hundreds."

During the trial patients will keep an electronic diary in which they will closely record their symptoms.

"We will monitor those who are taking the tablets and the control group who are taking the placebo and hopefully there will be significant differences," said Mr Williams.

The tablet works by helping the body get used in a controlled way to exposure to small amounts of the pollen that triggers an allergic reaction.

Mr Williams said the UK lagged behind in this type of immunotherapy research.

In much of Europe and the US patients were already regularly offered such therapy.

Under the new system patients would be given the tablets once a day for at least six months.

Andrew Williams
Mr Williams is running two trials

It is hoped the tablets will help to control symptoms for up to six years.

Mr Williams said that although hay fever was not life threatening, it could make life intolerable for the most severely afflicted.

"People talk about being irritable and not being able to concentrate, not being able to get out in the summer and feeling inadequate.

"After they have had their injections people have said that they change their lives and gives them a better quality of life."

Summer

Guy Young, the nursing director at the hospital, knows more than most how hay fever can blight a summer.

For the last three years he has been on the hay fever injection trial, although for the first two years he took the placebo, but says he still noticed a significant difference.

"Hay fever is debilitating. I was sneezing and felt fed up. It did not stop me doing things, but it did spoil my enjoyment.

"I have young kids so I would often go to the park but when I did I knew I would be suffering."

He said since having the real drug in the third year he had been amazed by the difference.

"The first two years I did notice a difference in that my symptoms I felt had been reduced, but at the end of the two years I was told that I had been on the placebo.

"I knew about the strength of the placebo effect, but I did feel a bit of a prat saying I was much better.

"I was disappointed but on the third year I knew I would be getting the real deal.

"The change was phenomenal. I had no symptoms all last summer and there were one or two days when it was really hot and I had no itching at all."

Muriel Simmons, chief executive of Allergy UK, said being able to take tablets instead of jabs would revolutionise lives.

"It would be incredibly useful. There are a lot of people who find the idea of going for injections a bit scary and so this would open up the treatment to a larger number of people."


SEE ALSO:
Hayfever injection hope
09 Mar 02 |  Health
Herbal treatment for hayfever
18 Jan 02 |  Health
Hayfever vaccine hope
23 Aug 99 |  Health


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