Allergy today is a public health concern of pandemic proportions, affecting more than 150 million people in Europe alone. In view of epidemiological trends, the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) predicts that within the next few decades, more than half of the European population may at some point in their lives experience some type of allergy.
Not only do allergic patients suffer from a debilitating disease, with the potential for major impact on their quality of life, career progression, personal development and lifestyle choices, but they also constitute a significant burden on health economics and macroeconomics due to the days of lost productivity and underperformance. Given that allergy triggers, including urbanization, industrialization, pollution and climate change, are not expected to change in the foreseeable future, it is imperative that steps are taken to develop, strengthen and optimize preventive and treatment strategies.
Allergen specific immunotherapy is the only currently available medical intervention that has the potential to affect the natural course of the disease. Years of basic science research, clinical trials, and systematic reviews and meta-analyses have convincingly shown that allergen specific immunotherapy can achieve substantial results for patients, improving the allergic individuals’ quality of life, reducing the long-term costs and burden of allergies, and changing the course of the disease. Allergen specific immunotherapy not only effectively alleviates allergy symptoms, but it has a long-term effect after conclusion of the treatment and can prevent the progression of allergic diseases.
Unfortunately, allergen specific immunotherapy has not yet received adequate attention from European institutions, including research funding bodies, even though this could be a most rewarding field in terms of return on investments, translational value and European integration and, a field in which Europe is recognized as a worldwide leader. Evaluation and surveillance of the full cost of allergic diseases is still lacking and further progress is being stifled by the variety of health systems across Europe. This means that the general population remains unaware of the potential use of allergen specific immunotherapy and its potential benefits.
We call upon Europe’s policy-makers to coordinate actions and improve individual and public health in allergy by:
Promoting awareness of the effectiveness of allergen specific immunotherapy
Updating national healthcare policies to support allergen specific immunotherapy
Prioritising funding for allergen specific immunotherapy research
Monitoring the macroeconomic and health economic parameters of allergy
Reinforcing allergy teaching in medical disciplines and specialties
The effective implementation of the above policies has the potential for a major positive impact on European health and well-being in the next decade.