Peanut allergy treatment trials halted due to severe reactions in children

January 16, 2006 at 10:11 am (Allergy News!)

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There’s a lot of news itching out there!

Here’s today’s big story:

Genentech said to halt allergy tests

Report: Biotech stops peanut allergy treatment trial after ‘severe’ reactions from two kids.
January 16, 2006: 8:23 AM EST

NEW YORK ( – Genentech Inc. put a stop to a clinical trial for a potential treatment for peanut allergies after two children suffered “severe” reactions during tests, according to a news report published Monday.

Genentech (up $1.32 to $87.46, Research), the world’s second-biggest biotech, was conducting clinical trials of Xolair to see if the drug could prevent reactions to peanut allergies, when two of the 150 children in the trial experienced “severe hypersensitivity reactions” to a trace amount of peanut protein, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The children had not been given Xolair, the report said, but were given the protein to test their reactions.

“We are not going to do that anymore,” Genentech spokeswoman Susan Desmond-Hellmann told the newspaper.

Xolair is currently on the market as a treatment for allergic asthma and totaled $320 million in U.S. sales in 2005. Drug makers often test products for additional uses after they’ve already been approved for the market.

Genentech, based in South San Francisco, Calif., reported $5.9 billion in total worldwide sales for 2005. The biotech’s top-selling products are Rituxan, a treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that totaled $1.8 billion in U.S. sales in 2005, and Avastin, a treatment for colorectal cancer with $1.1 billion in total U.S. sales.

Genentech last week reported a 64 percent surge in fourth-quarter earnings, but this failed to impress some investors.

Personal commentary: everything we know about anaphylaxis points to the fact that trace amounts of whatever protein triggers it, WILL trigger it. It disappoints me that a biotech company endangered the lives of children (children!) to test their drug. Imagine how hopeful the parents were who were recruited to participate in this clinical study. They doubtlessly hoped to cure their children of life-threatening peanut allergy. In the rosy glow of such a hope, who wouldn’t sign off on liability and indemnity clauses?

My husband once bemoaned the fact that we didn’t live in a large city where we could participate in a peanut allergy vaccine trial. Personally, I’ve never wanted to risk my son’s life on an experimental treatment. Steve didn’t see it that way–he saw it as hope to be one of the first cured, thereby cutting down on all the days waiting for a treatment, when our son could potentially be exposed to peanut allergen. I can see both sides of the argument, but I remain of the opinion that it’s too risky for my son to take part in–I’m his mom, that’s my right to make that choice.

Anyway, also notice that this article came from the Money section of CNN, not the health news. It’s all about the Benjamins, baby. Sorry if that sounds too cynical, but news like this just reinforces my belief that no one will guard your child’s health and life as well as you will. Trust (in that regard) has to be earned, from where I’m standing. Time after time, people prove themselves incapable of handling the facts about anaphylaxis. Or, I shouldn’t say “incapable,” just unwilling.

Obviously information is not something that should be hard to handle. I guess that until people really have a personal need to understand it, they just won’t.

Even research scientists. 😦

Here‘s an article from CNN’s Health section, from way back in 2003, about having your child swallow charcoal if he or she accidentally ingests food that causes an allergic reaction. It’s a better article, perhaps, but the information about the danger of peanut butter versus the danger of packets of peanuts on an airplane is conflicting and confusing. When in doubt, be safe, keep peanut products out of your home, if you have peanut allergy.



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