Omalizumab (Xolair), used to treat exacerbations of allergic asthma, may serve an important role in helping people minimize food allergies as well, early research indicates.

Oral immunotherapy is under investigation as a treatment for food allergy. This desensitization method enables patients to build up a tolerance to the allergen by ingesting it in gradually increasing doses under medical supervision.

As Kari Nadeau, MD, PhD, and fellow investigators noted in their report in Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, pilot data have shown that omalizumab may hasten the person’s ability to tolerate more than 4 g of food-allergen protein.

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The group conducted a phase 1 study in which 25 children and adults with multiple food allergies received oral immunotherapy for up to five allergens simultaneously, with omalizumab injections administered for eight weeks before and eight weeks following oral immunotherapy. 

Compared with persons undergoing immunotherapy without omalizumab, patients receiving the drug could tolerate larger initial doses of the food allergens, and could safely eat 4 g of each food protein at a median of 18 weeks after the allergen-ingestion process began. Patients not receiving omalizumab did not reach the 4-g point until a median of 85 weeks after food doses began.


  1. Begin P et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014; doi:10.1186/1710-1492-10-7.