When people have an allergy to cats a prominent factor magnifying the symptoms might be psychological.
Why do I say this? Well, a company, Circassia, in the UK has developed a cat allergy drug.
This sort of drug would be very profitable because a significant percentage of people are said to be allergic to domestic cats; millions of people are allergic to cats.
In a trial of this drug called Cat-SPIRE, it was found that the drug was successful in reducing allergy symptoms by around 60%. There were 1,245 participants across Europe, Russia and North America. Great. The drug works…they thought.
The problem is that a placebo worked as efficiently as the drug. When people took a placebo it greatly reduced their allergy symptoms by the same amount.
This surprised the manufacturers of the drug. “Who could predict that a placebo could have such a massive effect?” said chief executive Steve Harris.
It is thought that the placebo effect suggests that participants exaggerated the severity of the allergic reaction to cats at the beginning of the trial. However, they don’t know why, in truth, the placebo effect was so strong.
However, it made me think why a placebo had such a pronounced effect. My only thought is that people who believe that they have an allergy to cats exaggerate the symptoms of their allergy because of psychological factors. They probably have a genuine allergy but it is magnified and the symptoms made worse because of their thought processes concerning the presence of a domestic cat.
If this is true, a form of treatment for people who suffer from an allergy to cats could be some sort of psychotherapy in which the anxiety felt by the person in the presence of a cat is reduced. It may be that some people who are allergic to cats simply become anxious in the presence of cats which then magnifies their allergy symptoms through some normal, human response nervous mechanism.
I would suggest that scientists look into this more seriously because perhaps a way of reducing cat allergies is not to manufacture a pill but to consider consulting with a psychologist or a psychotherapist to talk through anxieties thereby reducing the allergy symptoms.
Circassia Pharmaceuticals lost two-thirds of its value as a result of the trials! They may have dump the idea of manufacturing a cat allergy pill.
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