Effect of 2 Years of Treatment With Sublingual Grass Pollen Immunotherapy on Nasal Response to Allergen Challenge at 3 Years Among Patients With Moderate to Severe Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: The GRASS Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA. 2017 Feb 14;317(6):615-625. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.21040.


Importance: Sublingual immunotherapy and subcutaneous immunotherapy are effective in seasonal allergic rhinitis. Three years of continuous treatment with subcutaneous immunotherapy and sublingual immunotherapy has been shown to improve symptoms for at least 2 years following discontinuation of treatment.

Objective: To assess whether 2 years of treatment with grass pollen sublingual immunotherapy, compared with placebo, provides improved nasal response to allergen challenge at 3-year follow-up.

Design, setting, and participants: A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled, 3-parallel-group study performed in a single academic center, Imperial College London, of adult patients with moderate to severe seasonal allergic rhinitis (interfering with usual daily activities or sleep). First enrollment was March 2011, last follow-up was February 2015.

Interventions: Thirty-six participants received 2 years of sublingual immunotherapy (daily tablets containing 15 µg of major allergen Phleum p 5 and monthly placebo injections), 36 received subcutaneous immunotherapy (monthly injections containing 20 µg of Phleum p 5 and daily placebo tablets) and 34 received matched double-placebo. Nasal allergen challenge was performed before treatment, at 1 and 2 years of treatment, and at 3 years (1 year after treatment discontinuation).

Main outcomes and measures: Total nasal symptom scores (TNSS; range; 0 [best] to 12 [worst]) were recorded between 0 and 10 hours after challenge. The minimum clinically important difference for change in TNSS within an individual is 1.08. The primary outcome was TNSS comparing sublingual immunotherapy vs placebo at year 3. Subcutaneous immunotherapy was included as a positive control. The study was not powered to compare sublingual immunotherapy with subcutaneous immunotherapy.

Results: Among 106 randomized participants (mean age, 33.5 years; 34 women [32.1%]), 92 completed the study at 3 years. In the intent-to-treat population, mean TNSS score for the sublingual immunotherapy group was 6.36 (95% CI, 5.76 to 6.96) at pretreatment and 4.73 (95% CI, 3.97 to 5.48) at 3 years, and for the placebo group, the score was 6.06 (95% CI, 5.23 to 6.88) at pretreatment and 4.81 (95% CI, 3.97 to 5.65) at 3 years. The between-group difference (adjusted for baseline) was -0.18 (95% CI, -1.25 to 0.90; [P = .75]).

Conclusions and relevance: Among patients with moderate to severe seasonal allergic rhinitis, 2 years of sublingual grass pollen immunotherapy was not significantly different from placebo in improving the nasal response to allergen challenge at 3-year follow-up.

Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01335139; EudraCT Number: 2010-023536-16.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention to Treat Analysis
  • Male
  • Phleum / adverse effects
  • Phleum / immunology*
  • Pollen / adverse effects
  • Pollen / immunology*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / ethnology
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / therapy*
  • Sublingual Immunotherapy / adverse effects
  • Sublingual Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Allergens

Associated data

  • EudraCT/2010-023536-16
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01335139