Background: Injections of allergens are widely prescribed for patients with asthma, but little is known about the effectiveness of immunotherapy. Methods: We conducted a double-blind, placebo controlled trial of multiple- allergen immunotherapy in 121 allergic children with moderate-to-severe, perennial (year-round) asthma. The children, who required daily medication for their asthma, were randomly assigned to receive subcutaneous injections of either a mixture of up to seven aeroallergen extracts or a placebo. Maintenance injections were continued for 18 months or longer. Medications were adjusted every two to three weeks on the basis of peak flow rates and symptoms. The principal outcome was the daily medication score. Bronchial sensitivity to methacholine (the concentration provoking a 20 percent decrease in the forced expiratory volume in one second [PC20]) was measured twice yearly. Results: The median medication score declined from 5.4 to 4.9 in the immunotherapy group (P<0.001) and from 5.2 to 5.0 in the placebo group (P<0.001), but there was no significant difference between the groups (P>0.6). The number of days on which oral corticosteroids were used was similar in the two groups. Partial or complete remission of asthma occurred in 31 percent of the immunotherapy group and in 28 percent of the placebo group (P>0.5). There was no difference between the groups in the use of medical care, symptoms, or peak flow rates. The median PC20 increased significantly in both groups, but again with no difference between the two groups. Conclusions: Immunotherapy with injections of allergens for over two years was of no discernible benefit in allergic children with perennial asthma who were receiving appropriate medical treatment.
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