Allergy scams at the doctor’s office

The Pediatric Insider

© 2012 Roy Benaroch, MD

Andy wrote in about something new that’s been offerred at his pediatrician’s office:  “I’m curious to know your thoughts on allergy treatment companies.  They offer testing through Pediatricians offices and share results looking to offer treatments in cases where symptoms can be relieved.  My two children were tested and are susceptible to 22 out of 48 areas.  They recommend injections at a rate of 2 shots 3X/week for 8 months then 2 shots 2X/week for 4 months.  That’s 276 injections in the first year.  In year two they may reduce the injections with the hope that they eliminate allergies ‘for life.’  My question is: what are your thoughts on this and what’s worse, the allergies or potentially injecting my children 276 times in a year?”

I’ve been offered to set up a similar system at my office– doing allergy testing and then getting allergy injection material from a single company. Their promotional material heavily emphasized the profit angle. If their numbers are right, a doc could make a fortune doing this. All of those shots are given at billable encounters, and the reimbursement looks, well, obscene (in a good way. I mean, good for the doc. Maybe not so good for whomever is paying the bill.) In contrast, the material they sent to me was actually quite light on the science, so I looked into it in detail thru their website. They’re using “proprietary” allergy testing that is not FDA approved and is, to put it mildly, non-standard. I have no way of knowing if their testing accurately predicts allergy or not. On their website they offer zero independent collaborative studies of their testing or their reagents. Is it effective? Who knows?

I’m not going to put my patients thru what’s essentially an undisclosed, uncontrolled, and very expensive clinical study to see if this works.

I have no way of knowing if the testing done on your family was reliable or not, or if what you’ve been offered is the same as what I’ve looked into. Could be a completely different system. But I’d be somewhat skeptical of investing this much time, money, and pain into something that may not be as reliable as you’ve been told.

There are great, very effective allergy medications out there now, at least for environmental allergies. Long before I’d suggest testing I’d have a child on a daily antihistamine + a daily inhaled nasal steroid, and maybe a few other things. Most of the time, if these aren’t working it’s because the child isn’t actually taking the medications every day. If the meds are truly being used and there are still problematic symptoms that are directly causing decreased quality of life, then I refer to an allergist for state-of-the-art, reliable testing and immunotherapy.

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