Drug study: Say goodbye to allergy shots

New Media Producer: Amanda Lents

Some suffer all year round with allergies and for others it's seasonal agony. But could there be a simple way to treat allergies without those painful weekly visits to the doctor?

Allergy Patient Yekaterina Konovalova says, "I didn't know that I had allergies, it's just about a year ago that I actually found out a cause. I've gone through the allergy testing. That was the explanation for why I was getting sick a lot."

The worst triggers for Konovalova are grass and dust. So what could she do for relief?

Dr. William Reisacher an Otolaryngic Allergist says, "The main first line treatments that are available are medications, which everybody knows a lot about, antihistamines and nasal sprays. There are also avoidance strategies; finding out what it is you're allergic to, and then taking steps to try to decrease your exposure to that in the environment."

Beyond that Dr. Reisacher says you have the option to take shots, "Allergy shots are very effective. They have a very long track record and they've been found to be around 90% effective."

But shots aren't a reasonable option for everyone.

Konovalova says, "It was a big commitment for five years to come every week to the office. And it's kind of hard for me, I work as an independent contractor. I have a busy schedule."

Dr. Reisacher offered Konovalova an alternative.

He says, "The allergy serum which had been given previously through a subcutaneous injection, is now being given through a sublingual or under the tongue route."

The so called "allergy drops" allow patients to skip the needles and treat themselves daily at home. But their use is experimental because the drops are not FDA approved.

Dr. Reisacher says, "So the FDA has approved these extracts to be used in an injection, but because it hasn't been given through the oral route, they haven't gone through the data to determine the safety."

So far the research has shown the drops to be safe and effective. But larger studies are needed and doctors are still determining the appropriate dosages. Not everyone is convinced this will be the end to allergy shots.

Allergist Dr. Jonathan Field says, "It hasn't been researched in multiple allergic patients. Most of the patients we see have more than one allergy, maybe indoor and outdoor. There's no data to say it works for multiple. It's usually just a single, focused allergy."

There's skepticism about patient compliance.

Konovalova says she has only been using the drops for a few months, "Right now I'm just waiting for the drugs to accumulate in the body and hopefully, in a few months I'll start seeing the effects of them."

Because the drops are not FDA approved, they are not covered by insurance but are being offered by some allergists as an off label use.