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Peanut allergy: NHS to offer treatment that could help thousands of children

‘It has meant Emily is free from the fear that the tiniest mistake could put her life at risk,’ says sufferer’s mother

Jane Dalton
Thursday 23 December 2021 00:33 GMT
Peanuts are hidden in all sorts of foods
Peanuts are hidden in all sorts of foods (AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands of children in England will benefit from a life-changing treatment for peanut allergy after health chiefs signed a deal for it.

NHS England has agreed to buy the oral treatment, called Palforzia, which helps build up a tolerance to peanut, reducing the severity of symptoms, including anaphylaxis.

Peanut allergy, one of the most common food allergies in children, is thought to affect up to 2 per cent of the country’s 12 million children – or 240,000.

The prevalence of peanut allergy among children in western countries has doubled in the past 10 years, according to Allergy UK.

Symptoms include  hives, redness or swelling, itching around the mouth and throat, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and tightening of the throat.

The nuts or traces of them are found in myriad foods, from cereals to chocolate and cooking oil.

Children and young people aged between four and 17 are set to be the first in Europe to receive Palforzia, after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommended its use in draft guidance.

Sophie Pratt said her family’s lives had changed after her daughter Emily, nine, took part in the Palisade trial at Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

"Being on the clinical trial has changed our whole family’s lives,” she said.

“The treatment we received has meant that Emily is free from limits and the fear that the tiniest mistake could put her life at risk, and it has removed all the tension and worry that the simple act of eating loomed over us every day.

"It was particularly noticeable at special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and on holidays where there are often special foods like cakes, ice cream and treats that invariable had warnings, ‘may contain peanuts’ or menus not in English.

"Since the trial, Emily can go to parties and play dates with confidence, eat in restaurants without us having to call ahead to check the menu, and we’ve managed to have her first holiday abroad to New York and even taken part in feeding animals at zoo experiences - which is Emily’s passion.

"We could not be more grateful."

Clinical trials showed that when compared with a placebo, Palforzia increased the proportion of children who could tolerate at least 1,000mg of peanut protein – about three nuts - by at least half.

The treatment contains precise and gradually increasing amounts of peanut protein.

Up to 600 children are expected to be treated this year, and 2,000 a year after that will be treated.

George du Toit, children’s allergy consultant at Evelina London, said: "This is great news for children and young people with peanut allergies.

"This will make a huge impact to the everyday lives of our patients and their families."

Gillian Leng, chief executive at Nice, said: “An allergy to peanuts can have a severe impact on the lives of children, young people and their families and carers.

“While it is rare for a peanut allergy to be fatal in the UK, the consequences of accidental exposure to peanuts can be severe, with some people needing to self-administer adrenalin and have emergency care if they are exposed to peanut.”

NHS medical director Stephen Powis said: “It will reduce the fear and anxiety for patients and their families who may have been living with this allergy for years, and carrying around emergency medication just in case.”

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