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Weiss Physician Offers New Allergy Treatments

Nov 17, 2009

Fewer doctor visits, no shots for patients

For more information contact:
Catherine Gianaro
(773) 564-7285

CHICAGO (Nov. 17, 2009) — Patients at Weiss Memorial Hospital now have a new allergy treatment option—without the worry of taking pills or getting stuck with needles. It comes in the form of droplets that are put under the tongue three times daily.

Janaki Emani, M.D., began offering the alternative treatment this summer. A graduate of Northwestern University, Emani specializes in otolaryngology and is completing a fellowship in Ear, Nose and Throat-Allergy at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The only physician in Chicago offering this form of treatment, Emani said the droplets are formulated to each patient’s specific needs. “If it’s a pollen allergy, the droplets contain a pollen extract. They’re purified and filtered, but it’s the substance itself that you’re placing under the tongue.”
Allergies occur when cells misinterpret certain elements—such as pollen, grass or animal fur—as harmful and signal the immune system to attack. However, curative therapies such as shots and droplets applied regularly and over long periods of time can teach the body not to respond to allergens.

The difference between droplets and shots is that patients who use the droplets don’t need a physician to administer them. The patient dispenses the droplets daily, without having to make a trip to the physician’s office.

“There are people out there who are suffering because of the inconvenience of taking a day off to go to a physician’s office or because of a fear of needles,” Emani said. “I want to offer something for patients who don’t want to do the shots or who don’t want to spend the time to come in. They should have that option.”

Because the patient receives the allergens multiple times a day, Emani said the doses are smaller than with once-weekly shots, lessening the risk of a severe reaction such as anaphylactic shock.

The practice originated in Wisconsin 40 years ago. A group of allergists and internal medicine doctors who specialized in allergy focused their attention on data and research for such treatment. Europeans use it too—in the form of a dissolvable tablet that patients place under the tongue to combat grass allergies.

According to Emani, results in Wisconsin show that patients’ symptoms improve more quickly than with shots—three to four weeks versus months. “The concept is so logical.”

Still, some insurance companies do not recognize the droplets as an insurable form of treatment. Regardless, the cost ends up being the same as for shots because patients don’t make weekly office co-pays.

Though the clinical treatment originated 40 years ago, the idea behind it dates back to ancient medicinal practices common among Native Americans and Chinese, who would chew on substances to which they had a systemic reaction. Some Native Americans, for example, hunted in areas heavy with poison ivy and would place small amounts of the plant in their mouths at night. Over time, their reactions to it decreased.

Aside from Emani, the nearest physicians who offer the treatment practice in Joliet and Rockford. She said the reason for so few physicians offering allergy drops might have to do with the time and effort involved in learning about sublingual (under the tongue) immunotherapy.

Emani said she hopes to collaborate in the future with one of her former professors at the University of Chicago to see how patients progress with shots versus the droplets. Her work will add to the growing body of research on sublingual immunotherapy.

To make an appointment with Dr. Emani, call Lakefront Medical Associates at (773) 564-6160.