One anticipated therapeutic arrival in ocular allergy treatments came in 2013 and 2014, with approvals of sublingual timothy grass antigen extracts as a desensitizing approach to seasonal allergies. These approvals received a first-ever FDA indication for “allergic rhinitis with or without conjunctivitis,” opening the door to future treatments for rhino-conjunctivitis.
Despite this umbrella term, patients are likely to ask eye care professionals about ocular allergies and primary care practitioners (or allergists) about nasal allergies. It was unclear who would be delivering this therapy from the start.
This may be part of the problem these therapies face, as after fewer than three years on the market, sales of Grastek (Merck) and Oralair (Stallergenes) have been much lower than anticipated. With slower than expected sales, Merck returned marketing rights to its development partner, Alk-Albello, in July 2016.
Despite the steback, another Merck/ALK-Arbello immunotherapy that targeted the perennial allergen dust mite5 was approved by the FDA in March 2017. It will be interesting to see if the demand from patients with perennial allergies for this treatment alternative will be different than that seen with the seasonal immunotherapies.