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Friday, March 27, 2009

Warning: Beware Homeopathic Allergy "Treatment"

Every few weeks a new study emerges from clinical physicians trying to desensitize children with allergies by giving them tiny amounts of the allergen and then building up the dosage over time. Although the studies have been of small numbers, the results have been extremely promising. See, for example, Gradual Doses of Protein Can Reduce Allergies.

I should have expected that the quacks would rush in to take advantage of parents' hope and gullibility. A press release announced the available of a homeopathic "treatment" for allergy sufferers.

Food allergy sufferers now have a treatment option that builds immunity to food allergens from the comfort of home. Allertherapy is a natural treatment that gently builds tolerance to targeted foods. The Allertherapy method is similar in concept to allergy shots. It quickly builds immunity to allergens and maintains it over time. The easy-to-use oral spray uses a low, homeopathic allergen strength of one part per million to allow for safety of use in most allergy sufferers. The food mix contains many of the most common allergy-causing foods. Users can quickly build immunity and reduce targeted allergies. Hence, the treatment may help to reduce allergic reactions and dependence on medications.

The peddlers of this bunk use a recent test on peanut allergies as a cover, even those the techniques used in that test are not at all similar to homeopathic methods. They also throw around the known use of allergy shots as relief, even though these are not used at all for relief of dairy allergies. The idea is to blind people with science, using anything scientific and vaguely similar to give their own snake oil the aura of authenticity.

You might notice that the press release never really gets around to specifying exactly what allergies their ridiculous concoction is supposed to work on. That's because it apparently works on everything. More than 100 foods are thrown in, "diluted to one part per million." That's a worthless amount except for those who truly are anaphylactic dairy. In their case, one part per million could be enough to trigger an attack.

For everybody else, the product would be worthless. They can't even define dairy properly.


Eggs are not dairy. They are a totally separate category in all respects, especially when allergies are concerned.

Lactose is already in cow's milk. And cow's milk is already in cheese. They're just bulking out the list to make it seem impressive and for no other reason.

Please do not fall for this nonsense. Do not buy this product. Do not let anyone you know buy this product. This is not how allergies work. There are no cures or treatments that work on dairy allergies. None. Scientists are working on the problem but it remains a hope for the future. Be warned.

UPDATE: April 7. The major media was a little slow getting on this story, but I found an article from ABC News by Radha Chitale that finally addresses this quackery. I wish that the article really sat up and attacked the product, but not much hope of that. At least the actual doctors quoted have some strong opinions.
"A legitimate [pharmaceutical company] has to spend $1 million to get a drug approved by the FDA, and these people can make these outrageous claims without any required testing," said Dr. Harold Nelson, an allergist and professor of medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver. "The system is seriously flawed." ...

"Quoting legitimate scientific studies and pretending to be in the same league is just bogus," Nelson said.

Heck, even the homeopaths can't believe this one:
"I can understand a spray for pollen but I don't understand the food allergy stuff," said Dr. Natalie Stern, a pediatric homeopath at the Continuum Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, who has found homeopathy useful in treating people with seasonal allergies. "I wouldn't dare be giving [Allertherapy] to somebody I know with anaphylactic shock with peanuts."

Don't use it. Don't even think about it.

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Unknown said...

Great post! I agree with you 100% and commented similarly on my blog. They ought to remove Allertherapy from the market as an OTC treatment.

Anonymous said...

It seems whenever scientific desensitization treatments for allergies are in the news, some homeopaths see a chance to promote themselves, e.g. here . The author links to a 2008 piece by Dr Steven Novella, which discusses the false analogy often made between desensitization therapy and homeopathy.

The really worrying thing about the Allertherapy press release is that it might lead people to think that it's ok to do food challenges at home. This would be very unwise, as the researchers responsible for the recent food allergy desensitization trials have made very clear.

Claire OB