Skip to Content

Merck Reports Results of Phase III Study of Investigational Oral Allergy Immunotherapy Tablet (AIT) in Patients Ages 5-17 with Grass Pollen Allergy

Data Presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) Annual Meeting

NEW ORLEANS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Mar 2, 2010 - In new data from a Phase III study in 345 children and adolescents (ages 5-17 years), patients with grass pollen allergic rhinoconjunctivitis treated with Merck's investigational sublingual grass (Phleum Pratense) allergy immunotherapy tablet (AIT) showed a 26 percent greater improvement in the total combined score (daily symptom score and daily medication score), compared to patients receiving placebo (p=0.001). Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, or runny nose and itchy, watery eyes due to allergies, is a common condition in children and adolescents. These data were presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

AIT is an investigational, dissolvable oral tablet that is designed to prevent allergy symptoms by inducing a protective immune response against allergies, thereby treating the underlying cause of the disease. Merck is investigating AIT for the treatment of grass pollen allergic rhinoconjunctivitis in both children and adults. AIT is currently approved in the European Union (EU) for children and adults (ages 5-65) with grass pollen allergy, marketed under the name GRAZAX® by ALK-Abello, which discovered and developed the product in the EU.

“Patients who received AIT experienced significant reductions in allergy symptoms and allergy medication use, the combined symptom scores evaluated in the study,” said Michael Blaiss, M.D., clinical professor of pediatrics and medicine, University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Tenn., and lead investigator for the study. “This Phase III study is the first to evaluate AIT in children and adolescents with grass pollen allergies in North America.”

The randomized, placebo-controlled, Phase III study investigated the efficacy and safety of AIT versus placebo in the treatment of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis caused by pollen from Timothy grass, a type of grass common in North America. A total of 345 patients, ages 5-17 years, were randomized to daily treatment with oral grass AIT (15mcg of Phl p5, which is a formulation of the timothy grass allergen) or placebo at least eight weeks prior to and throughout the 2009 grass pollen season. The primary efficacy endpoint was the total combined score, comprised of total daily symptom score and total daily medication score. Adverse events experienced by patients receiving AIT were generally local, application site reactions and included oral pruritus, throat irritation, stomatitis, ear pruritus, mouth edema, oropharyngeal pain, pharyngeal erythema, eye pruritus and lip swelling. There were no reports of anaphylactic shock in the study. Eighty-nine percent of study patients were sensitive to allergens in addition to the grass pollen allergen.

“Merck is committed to developing respiratory products that provide physicians with a wide range of treatment options to help their patients suffering from allergies,” said James E. Fish, M.D., executive director, Global Scientific Affairs, Merck Research Laboratories. “We are encouraged by the positive results of this study and look forward to further developing the oral allergy immunotherapy tablet for patients suffering from allergies caused by grass pollen.”

About Seasonal Allergies

Allergic rhinitis is the most common chronic condition in children and adolescents.1 Allergic symptoms caused by grass pollen occur almost exclusively during the spring and summer months when grass pollen counts are high, resulting in symptoms such as sneezing, congestion, runny nose and itchy and watery eyes.2 While traditional allergy medications can relieve seasonal symptoms, The World Health Organization recognizes immunotherapy as the only treatment approach that targets the underlying cause of allergic disease and alters its natural course.3

About Merck

Today's Merck is working to help the world be well. Through our medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer and animal products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching programs that donate and deliver our products to the people who need them. For more information, visit

Forward-Looking Statement

This news release includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements may include, but are not limited to, statements about the benefits of the merger between Merck and Schering-Plough, including future financial and operating results, the combined company's plans, objectives, expectations and intentions and other statements that are not historical facts. Such statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of Merck's management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.

The following factors, among others, could cause actual results to differ from those set forth in the forward-looking statements: the possibility that the expected synergies from the merger of Merck and Schering-Plough will not be realized, or will not be realized within the expected time period, due to, among other things, the impact of pharmaceutical industry regulation and pending legislation that could affect the pharmaceutical industry; the risk that the businesses will not be integrated successfully; disruption from the merger making it more difficult to maintain business and operational relationships; Merck's ability to accurately predict future market conditions; dependence on the effectiveness of Merck's patents and other protections for innovative products; the risk of new and changing regulation and health policies in the U.S. and internationally and the exposure to litigation and/or regulatory actions.

Merck undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Additional factors that could cause results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in Merck's 2009 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the company's other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SEC's Internet site (

GRAZAX® is a registered trademark of ALK-Abelló

1 Meltzer, E. et al. “Burden of allergic rhinitis: Results from the Pediatric Allergies in America Survey.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2009. Vol. 124: S43-S70.

2 “Mold and Pollen Counts.” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 2005. Available at

3 Bousquet, J. et al. “Allergen immunotherapy: Therapeutic vaccines for allergic diseases.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 1998. Vol. 102: 558-62. Available at



Contact: Merck
Pam Eisele, 908-423-5042
Julie Lux, 908-298-4774
Joe Romanelli, 908-423-5088
Carol Ferguson, 908-423-4465



Posted: March 2010