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Keywords:

  • grass pollen;
  • immunotherapy

Grass pollen immunotherapy is effective, although efficacy must be balanced against side-effects. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 40 adult patients with summer hay fever, immunotherapy with a depot grass pollen extract (Phleum pratense, Alutard SQ) reduced symptoms and medication requirements with an acceptable minimal level of side-effects (31). The original placebo group, as well as the actively treated group, have now received active immunotherapy in an open fashion for a further 3 years. An important question was whether continued injection treatment was accompanied by maintained clinical improvement. By analysis of diary symptoms, rescue medication, and visual analogue scores during the pollen season, we show that efficacy was maintained throughout the 3–4-year study period. Clinical improvement was accompanied by a sustained and marked decrease in immediate conjunctival allergen sensitivity and a further significant decrease in the size of the allergen-induced late cutaneous response. In contrast, an initial decrease in the allergen-induced immediate cutaneous response was not maintained at 3–4 years. Of the patients, 37/40 completed the first year, 33/40 the second year, and 32/40 the third year of treatment. Patients dropped out for reasons other than the outcome of immunotherapy. During a total of 2598 injections, five immediate systemic reactions were observed, all during the induction (not maintenance) phase, and all occurred within 10 min of injection and responded promptly to adrenaline. Grass pollen immunotherapy is effective and safe, provided it is performed on carefully selected patients by trained physicians with immediate access to resuscitative measures.