Drugs May Not Protect Against Cat Allergies

Study finds not enough contain recommended doses

TUESDAY, Nov. 16, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- People allergic to cats may not be getting adequate relief from their prescription drugs even though more of the medications contain ingredients aimed at attacking these irritants, a new study finds.

A review of prescription data finds that the number of medications containing cat allergens rose more than fourfold in a 12-year period, yet the dosing of these drugs has remained stagnant.

At the same time, allergy suffers are turning more to alternative practices, with acupuncture leading the way, according to a new survey. And patients in mainstream medical practices who use allergy specialists get more relief than those who visit their primary-care doctors, a third survey shows.

This new research was presented during a meeting this week of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) meeting in Boston.

According to Dr. Mary Klote, lead author of the first study, in the mid-1990s the ACAAI and the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology issued a joint statement recommending higher doses of cat allergen in allergy drugs. Allergens are included in these drugs to trigger an immune response from the body.

Klote looked at 38,400 prescriptions from 1992 to 2003 and found an increase from 10 percent to 45 percent in the number of prescriptions that included cat allergen. However, there was no difference in the dosage.

By contrast, prescriptions containing dust mite allergens rose from 20 percent to 65 percent, with 37 percent having dosing following the guidelines.

Klote, an allergy immunology fellow at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., urged caution in interpreting these results. For one thing, she stated, she looked only at new prescriptions. "A lot of doctors start out at a lower dose and revise it when they see how the patient is doing," she said. "If the patient is no longer symptomatic, there's no need to increase it. We're always trying to balance safety and effectiveness."

Also, the practice parameters issued by the two allergy organizations are a guideline, not an absolute rule. "Physicians are allowed to modify their therapy based on the clinical results of patients," Klote said.

And Klote did not have information on how patients were doing at these lower doses.

"It's more of a reminder to the community that the guidelines are there and that they might consider higher dosing," Klote said. "I don't know why they're not doing higher level; there might be a very good reason."

"I don't know exactly why we're not dosing on that level. It would be interesting to be able to know that," Klote continued.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by Dr. William Silvers of Allergy Asthma Colorado in Englewood found that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is becoming more popular among patients with allergies. Currently, about 10 percent are seeking this type of care. More than half of people surveyed said they were interested in pursuing "traditional with CAM" options within their current allergy practice. Acupuncture was the leading alternative treatment of choice, with 48 percent of CAM users in 2004 saying they had tried this. This was higher than vitamin/mineral therapy, which led the race in a 1998 survey.

Finally, another survey suggested that patients being treated by allergists had multiple allergies, more symptoms, and more prescriptions written than those treated by a primary-care physician. Despite the apparent severity of the allergies, people who saw a specialist said that the allergies had less of an impact on their daily activities than people seeing a primary-care doctor.

More information

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology can help you manage pet allergies.

SOURCES: Mary Klote, M.D., allergy immunology fellow, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.; study abstracts, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology meeting, Boston
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