New Jersey family says peanut allergy treatment was life-changing

SKILLMAN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Last week, the FDA gave the green light to the first drug to treat peanut allergies, the nation's most prevalent food allergy.

For families with a loved one with a peanut allergy, even day-to-day things like going to school can be nerve-wracking.

The Kennedy family of New Jersey took part in the clinical trials to test this new treatment. They say it has made a world of a difference for their son.

Eleven-year-old Noah Kennedy of Skillman, Somerset County loves everything about baseball - especially those thrilling games.

"Going 4-for-4, with two doubles, and a triple, and a single, and getting the winning play," said Noah with a smile.

But when it comes to the game's staple snack, peanuts, they're a problem for Noah.

He wouldn't eat peanuts or peanut butter as a baby.

"He wouldn't put it in his mouth," recalled Noah's father Craig.

Then in kindergarten, Noah had a severe reaction to an unmarked peanut butter candy, with a rash, coughing, swelling in his mouth, and gastrointestinal symptoms,

Ever since, he's had to avoid all contact with peanuts.

"He realized all of a sudden he was different, right? And no kids like to be different," said Craig.

"At first I sat at the peanut allergy table, but then my friends, they wanted to sit with me. So they stopped bringing peanut stuff to school so I could sit with them," Noah said.

But a few years ago, Noah qualified for clinical trials at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for a drug that gradually increases doses of peanut flour to desensitize children.

The first test to check allergic level caused a severe reaction; it was difficult to endure for both Noah and his parents.

"You deliberately are giving the child something that you spent years trying to make sure they never come in contact with," noted Craig.

At the end of the first year, the Kennedys found out Noah was getting a placebo, not the real medication.

So, he kept having reactions.

"We find out that he's actually more reactive to peanuts than he was in the beginning," Craig said. "It was one of the saddest days ever for our family."

Still, they decided to stick it out. And in year two, after 12 months of getting the real drug, the Kennedys saw results.

"He was able to eat the equivalent of 18 peanuts in a two-hour period with no significant reaction," Craig said.

Today, Noah maintains his peanut tolerance without medication.

"I'm eating two dark chocolate peanut M&Ms every night," Noah proudly said.

Noah's dad said his son no longer has the fear of accidental peanut exposures, and that has boosted his willingness to try new things, and his overall confidence in life - and at the ballpark.

The new drug, Palforzia, has to be given under a doctor's close supervision. It costs about $1,100 for a year of desensitization.

Another product, given through a patch, is due for FDA approval in early August.
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