The first in a long-line of oral allergy vaccines was released last month which promise to offer a cure rather than just relieve symptoms for millions of hayfever sufferers worldwide.
The world's first non-intravenous grass-allergy vaccine, Grazax, was launched by Alk-Abello in Germany at the end of November and is the first in a long-line of products aiming to turn the anti-allergy market on its head by offering a cure, rather than just relief, to millions of hayfever sufferers around the world. The drug is a once-daily, immuno-therapy that dissolves under the tongue and could remove patients' reliance on current intravenous therapies, antihistamines and nasal steroids.
The world hayfever (allergic rhinitis) market was recently valued at over $8bn (€6bn) by visiongain, in a report entitled The World Allergy Market 2006-2011. The current market leading treatment is Pfizer's Zyrtec (cetirizine HCl) antihistamine, with global sales of $1.5bn in the year to June 2006.
Tom Newton, author of the Visiongain report, predicts large scale revenue losses across the allergy market as a host of generic alternatives will soon hit the market and said that allergy vaccines may play a pivotal role in maintaining revenues in the sector.
The UK's National Health Service, for example, spends more than £40m (€60m) a year on prescription allergy medicines, with the over-the-counter market worth over £80m a year. New allergy vaccines from companies like Alk-Abello and Cualogic have the potential to completely redefine the marketplace, especially the prescription market.
According to Dr Peter Moldt, president and CEO of Curalogic, only one third of patients suffer from symptoms that are mild enough for antihistamines to sufficiently reduce the reaction. If symptoms are more severe, people add nasal-steroids to the therapeutic solution.
As a last resort, people will turn to intravenous immuno-therapies, which currently account for less than three per cent of the market due to the unpleasant nature of repeated injections.
With the arrival of oral immunotherapies for allergy rhinitis this should change dramatically. Talking to DrugResearcher.com, Dr Moldt said: "The reduction in symptoms is substantial, between two and five times better than traditional therapies."
He continued:"The biggest change in the market is that this is a new way of treating allergies and the potential is very, very big."
However, he did caution that due to the specificity of the immuno-therapies, they would likely stay as prescription therapies due to the need to diagnose the exact cause of patients allergic reactions. The new treatments are likely to be used to treat sufferers for which antihistamines don't provide sufficient relief.
Both Alk-Abello and Curalogic have very strong allergy immuno-therapy pipelines.
Alk-Abello has recently started Phase III trials in the US for Grazax - its grass seed therapy that received EU regulatory approval and was released to the German market at the end of November. They also have dust mite and ragweed anti-allergens in Phase I trials.
Curalogic has investigational new drug programs open in the US for grass, ragweed and cat therapies. Curalogic will be starting Phase III trials on their ragweed vaccine in the early spring of 2007 and aim to apply for EU regulatory approval in 2008. They also have a dust mite allergy vaccine in pre-clinical trials.
Dr Moldt said: "There is a significant challenge to explain to medical doctors that there is an alternative to current treatments, but to change these practices takes time and effort"