Food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food. Even a tiny amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger signs and symptoms such as digestive problems, hives or swollen airways. In some people, a food allergy can cause severe symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Food allergy reactions may vary unpredictably from mild to severe. Mild food allergy reactions may involve only a few hives or minor abdominal pain. Some food allergy reactions progress to severe systemic reactions, known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can lead to a drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, and other life-threatening symptoms.
People with food allergies and their loved ones live in fear. Everyone affected is anxious for a solution.
There has been a global rise in food allergies over the last decade. In the United States, an estimated 32 million Americans have food allergies – 6 million children and 26 million adults. A 2013 survey of the economic impact of childhood food allergies in the US found an overall economic cost totaling $24.8 billion, or $4,184 per food allergic child per year. Nine common foods – peanut, tree nut, wheat, milk, egg, soy, fish, shellfish and sesame account for over 90% of all food allergies. Peanut alone is responsible for up to 25% of childhood food allergies. Food allergies present huge financial costs, as well as emotional and social costs for food allergy families.
Despite the high and growing incidence of allergic disease, the past few decades have seen few improvements in allergy therapeutics. Currently only one disease-modifying treatment for food allergies has received FDA approval. Outside of that, the only options available to patients are avoidance of the food and the use of emergency rescue medications (emergency epinephrine injection) when avoidance fails. The approximately 32 million Americans with food allergies today are in need of solutions and highly motivated to commit to new therapies when they enter the market.
There is no sign that the rising rate and burden of food allergies will slow down until a safe, disease-modifying treatment with long-term efficacy reaches the market to stem the epidemic.