Background: Allergen-specific immunotherapy is a well-documented treatment for allergic rhinitis, asthma, and allergy to Hymenoptera venoms. The drawbacks of injection immunotherapy are related to the risk of inducing systemic side-effects (especially during the induction phase), the time used to reach the maintenance dose, and the percentage of patients completing the induction phase).
Objective: To investigate the practicability and safety of three different patient-friendly induction regimens of clustered immunotherapy (several injections administered during each visit).
Methods: Since 1990, three different clustered induction regimens (regimen 1 = exclusively aqueous extracts; regimen 2 = a combination of aqueous and alum depot extracts; and regimen 3 = induction using exclusively alum depot extracts) have been investigated in 657 patients (10 369 injections).
Results: A total of 454 systemic (immediate and late) reactions were observed in 257 patients corresponding to 4.4% of the injections and 39.1% of the patients. Most of the systemic reactions were of little or no clinical importance (93% grade 1 and grade 2) and < 1% anaphylactic reactions. The 8-week induction regimen using exclusively alum depot extracts showed a statistical significant lower frequency and severity of systemic side-effects. Immunotherapy with cat and mite allergen extracts showed the highest frequency of severe side-effects, which may be related to these extracts being used predominantly in asthmatic patients. The lowest frequency of systemic side-effects was observed in patients allergic to Hymenoptera venoms and these patients furthermore showed the highest number of patients (97%) completing the induction phase.
Conclusion: An 8-week clustered induction regimen using alum depot extract seems an acceptable compromise in relation to a reduction in the time used to reach maintenance dose and the risk of inducing clinically relevant systemic side-effects, and consequently imply a reduction in the costs of the treatment.