FDA Eyes New Allergy Drug

Actors John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson and Jenna Fischer attend the after party of the West Coast premiere of the New Line Cinema film 'The Last Mimzy' on March 20, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. GETTY IMAGES/Vince Bucci

Wiley Ehrke is hoping a brand new drug means a shot at lasting relief from the asthma that has slowed him down all his life.

"My chest becomes very tight like there's a huge rubber band around it and it's very hard to breathe in and out," he told CBS News Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin.

He's getting his second injection of the experimental allergy medication Xolair. Today's recommendation for FDA approval means the drug will soon be available to millions of allergy sufferers.

"Xolair is going to be a major advance in the treatment of allergies," said Dr. William Berger, President of the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.

Xolair is the first in a new class of allergy medications called anti-IGE drugs. They work by stopping the basic mechanism of allergies instead of just treating symptoms like most existing allergy drugs.

When you come into contact with something you're allergic to, your body produces antibodies called IGE's which begin circulating in the blood.

The anti-IGE drug hooks on to those IGE's ... and blocks them from attaching to cells, stopping the allergic reaction.

Xolair would be approved specifically for allergic asthma, but since IGE's are present in every allergic reaction -- whether from pets, or peanuts or pollen -- its use could be widespread.

"It can block dust, it can block drugs, it can block foods all with a single injection, so we may be looking at a medication that could treat many diseases all at the same time," Berger said.

One drawback to this wonder drug may be its cost. A highly engineered product of the bio-tech world, it's likely to be pricey -- as much as $10,000 a year for a prescription. Final FDA approval is expected in June.

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