Area cat owners who are allergic to their pets may have a new form of relief on the way. Marycliff Allergy Specialists is one of 77 sites in the country participating in the CATALYST cat allergy study.
The phase 3 clinical trial is testing a new method to desensitize patients against cat allergens. Compared to traditional allergy shots, the trial method is a less invasive shot and treatment ends in a matter of months, rather than years.
“Instead of three to five years on subcutaneous shots it may be four to eight months,” said Richard Gower, allergist and immunologist at Marycliff Allergy Specialists. The study shots are intradermal, a more shallow shot that doesn’t go beneath the skin.
According to Gower, over the nine months they’ve had patients in the study, some have already reported improvement.
The study, which is funded by Circassia LTD, a biopharmaceutical company based in the United Kingdom, is open to more participants, with exams, lab work and medication provided free to those who qualify.
To qualify, participants must be between 12 and 65, have experienced cat allergy symptoms for at least two years and have a cat living in the home. Participants are also screened with blood and skin tests that must have positive results for the antigens and antibodies that show cat allergy.
The cat allergy study is important, said Gower, because cats and cat allergies are so common.
“It’s a very important allergen in our society. It’s a common antigen. People like cats and they’re very allergenic. They induce allergies very easily,” said Gower, noting it’s estimated up to 100 million people own cats in the United States and more than 90 percent of the population has some exposure to cat dander.
Additionally, Gower said in northern climates like Spokane, cat allergies may be worse in the winter because forced air furnace heat blows cat dander all over the house, including rooms where the cat isn’t allowed.
“It’s hard to escape it,” he said, noting the first recommendation for people suffering from allergies is avoidance.
“It’s a persistent and potent antigen. People carry the dander on their clothes and shoes. That dander gets in the windows, walls and carpets and stays there,” said Gower. “I can tell somebody to avoid something but it’s easier said than done. People love their cats. The cats love them.”
The second line of allergy defense is medication to control or reduce symptoms such as eye, sinus and respiratory problems.
According to Gower, about 85 percent of people with allergies become allergic during childhood, with symptoms growing until they are perennial, rather than a few weeks.
“That’s where those shots become more important because it’s tough to take medicine all year round,” he said.
When avoidance and medication fail to give enough allergy relief, allergists typically recommend immunotherapy to gradually desensitize against the allergen and reduce or eliminate symptoms.
If successful, the trial method would provide relief for people with cat allergies more quickly and conveniently than traditional allergy shots.
“This is a new type of allergy shots. It’s been shown in smaller studies to be safe and effective,” said Gower, noting the larger Phase Three study is the next step toward gaining FDA approval.
“If this gives long lasting benefit it will cut time, cost and inconvenience to the patients,” Gower said. “This is a new way, a simple way and a quick way to achieve desensitization.”