Roundup: Breakthrough Peanut Allergy Treatment; FDA Warning About Heartburn Drug; and Recognizing HPV-Linked Cancers

FDA Closer to Approving First Peanut Allergy Treatment by January

An advisory committee with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first treatment for peanut allergies in children. The FDA plans to issue its final approval by January.

More than 3 million Americans are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says that more than 2.5 percent of American children are allergic to peanuts. Moreover, food allergies starting in childhood are on the rise.

The FDA’s Allergenic Products Advisory Committee preliminarily approved Palforzia, a peanut powder product, to help reduce allergic reactions to peanuts for patients ages 4 to 17, as part of oral immunotherapy protocol. The treatment was developed by pharmaceutical company Aimmune Therapeutics.

The committee’s vote is considered a landmark when it comes to peanut allergies, which currently have no FDA-approved treatment. Those allergic to peanut products now have little choice but to avoid peanuts and derivatives entirely.

Oral immunotherapy may not cure such food allergies. But some patients can start consuming peanut products and better manage any adverse reaction. Oral immunotherapy is a regime consisting of slowly increasing daily exposure to tiny amounts of peanut powder. Over the course of several months, such an approach has shown to reduce the incidence and severity of allergic reactions to small amounts of peanuts in many patients.

U.S. health guidelines urge parents to give their children foods containing peanuts early and regularly, starting at infancy, to help prevent what could be a life-threatening peanut allergy.

The guidelines, issued nearly two years ago by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, suggest that parents introduce peanut-containing foods into the diets of their infants as early as 4 to 6 months of age to reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy. This strongest recommendation applies to infants “deemed at high risk of developing peanut allergy because they already have severe eczema, egg allergy or both.”

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FDA Alerts Consumers About Cancer-Causing Impurity in Heartburn Medicine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says some over-the-counter products to treat heartburn contain low levels of an impurity called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is classified as a probable substance that could cause cancer based on results from laboratory tests.

Over-the-counter ranitidine is FDA approved to prevent and relieve heartburn associated with acid ingestion and sour stomach. Some of these products are commonly known as the brand-name drug Zantac, the FDA said.

Since last year, the FDA has been investigating NDMA and other so-called nitrosamine impurities in blood pressure and heart failure medicines.

In a statement, the agency says it is not issuing recalls nor is the FDA telling consumers to stop taking the drug.

“The FDA is not calling for individuals to stop taking ranitidine at this time; however, patients taking prescription ranitidine who wish to discontinue use should talk to their health care professional about other treatment options,” the FDA’s statement says. “People taking OTC ranitidine could consider using other OTC medicines approved for their condition.”

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Majority of U.S. Adults are Not Aware of HPV Link to Many Cancers, Study Reveals

Most U.S. adults don’t know that HPV (human papillomavirus) can cause a variety of cancers, new research says.

Specifically, more than 70 percent don’t know that HPV causes anal, penile and oral cancers, according to the study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Of the estimated 34,800 cancers likely caused by HPV each year, 92 percent can be prevented by an HPV vaccine, said a report last month from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, HPV cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. HPV infection can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.

Public health officials say there is need for a national campaign to increase the HPV vaccination rate to 80 percent nationwide. The most recent statistics show that 49.5 percent of girls and 37.5 percent of boys, aged 13-17, are up-to-date on all recommended doses of the HPV vaccine, the CDC says.

For the new study, researchers at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston analyzed National Cancer Institute data of 6,261 men and women who were surveyed about their HPV knowledge in 2017 and 2018. Respondents were between the ages of 18 and 101.

Two-thirds of women, ages 18 to 26, knew that HPV can cause cervical cancer, compared with just one-third of men of the same age. Overall, 70 percent of adults of any age were unaware of the link between HPV and other cancers.

U.S. regulators last year expanded the use of the HPV vaccine to include men and women between the ages of 27 and 45. This approval should protect more people from several types of cancer caused by HPV, experts say.

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