Dr. Sarbjit "Romi" Saini, a Johns Hopkins allergist and immunologist in Baltimore, said the drug, omalizumab, was tested on 323 people at 55 medical centers for whom standard antihistamine therapy failed to quell their underlying, allergy-like reaction, known as chronic idiopathic urticaria or chronic spontaneous urticaria.
"Physicians and patients may now have a fast, safe and well-tolerated treatment option to consider before prescribing even more antihistamines, which can be highly sedating," Saini said in a statement.
The study, conducted in 2009 to 2011, mostly involved girls and women ages 12-75. Each was randomly assigned to take one of three dosing regimens of omalizumab, or placebo, after which they were monitored through regular checkups for four months.
All study participants had chronic hives and rash for at least six months, with many having suffered from the condition for more than five years.
Saini said study found substantial evidence this first injection treatment option not only works, but does so more safely than other drugs, such as corticosteroids and the immunosuppressant cyclosporine, which carry risk of potentially severe and toxic side effects, including high blood pressure, bone thinning and infection.
The findings were published in The New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in San Antonio.