Updated April 30, 2015.
What is Ragwitek?
Ragwitek is a medication used to treat short ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) allergies. It was approved by the FDA for use in individuals aged 18-65 in the year 2014.
Ragweed is a common culprit of allergic rhinitis, (also called hay fever). The weed grows throughout the eastern and midwestern United States and typically releases pollen from August through November.
Ragwitek only treats allergic rhinitis caused specifically by ragweed, not hay fever symptoms caused by other pollens.
Prior to taking Ragwitek you should have an allergy test verifying that your symptoms are specifically caused by short ragweed. You can be tested for ragweed allergies by a qualified doctor using either a skin test or blood test.
Technically, rather than a medication Ragwitek is actually a form of immunotherapy similar to but more convenient (and less painful) than allergy shots. The medication itself is an extract of short ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia). By giving an individual small controlled doses of the substance they are allergic to the immune system can sometimes become desensitized to a specific allergen. According to studies individuals who used Ragwitek experienced an approximate 26% decrease in their allergy symptoms.
Who Can Take Ragwitek?
Ragwitek can be taken by individuals ages 18-65 who do not have severe or uncontrolled asthma. You should inform your doctor of any underlying medical conditions you might have before taking Ragwitek as some underlying medical conditions might impair your ability to survive a potential allergic reaction from Ragwitek.
Ragwitek should not be given to individuals who have a history of an anaphylactic reaction, severe allergic reaction or eosinophilic esophagitis. Talk to your doctor before taking Ragwitek if your are pregnant or nursing.
How is Ragwitek Taken?
Ragwitek is given as a sublingual tablet. The first dose of Ragwitek should be taken in a doctor's office so that the individual taking the medication can be monitored for an allergic reaction (typically for 30 minutes). If there is no allergic reaction following the first dose Ragwitek can then be taken at home once a day, the tablet is dissolved under the tongue, you should not swallow for at least 60 seconds after placing the tablet beneath your tongue. Do not eat or drink for at least 5 minutes after taking Ragwitek.
Immunotherapy with Ragwitek should be initiated at least 12 weeks before the start of ragweed season and treatment continued until the end of the ragweed season.
Patients who are using Ragwitek should be given an emergency auto-injection of epinephrine to keep on hand and be instructed on how to use this medication in case of a severe allergic reaction. You should also know the signs and symptoms of a life threatening allergic reaction before taking Ragwitek. For more information read: What is Anaphylaxis?
The most common side effects of Ragwitek are throat irritation and itching, tingling, or burning sensation in the mouth and oral mucosa.
Less commonly reported side effects include: mouth edema, swollen tongue, difficulty swallowing, ear itching, dry mouth, nausea, generalized itching and chest discomfort.
While rare, there is always the potential of a serious, life threatening allergic reaction with any form of immunotherapy including Ragwitek. According to the prescribing information for Ragwitek, in a study of 1,057 persons, one individual suffered a serious allergic reaction for which they were treated successfully.
American College of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Ragweed Allergy. Accessed: April 28, 2015 from http://acaai.org/allergies/types/ragweed-allergy
FDA. (News Release). FDA approves Ragwitek for short ragweed allergies. Accessed: April 28, 2015 from http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm393820.htm
FDA. Ragwitek (PDF). Accessed: April 29, 2015 from http://www.fda.gov/downloads/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Allergenics/UCM393600.pdf