Aspirin desensitization may improve respiratory intolerance associated with alcohol consumption in patients with aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD), according to a new study published in the journal International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology.

In addition to respiratory sensitivity to aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), patients with AERD oftentimes experience an additional allergic reaction when drinking alcohol. For this study, researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania examined a group of patients with AERD (N=45) who described themselves as unable to tolerate alcohol. Participants underwent aspirin desensitization following endoscopic sinus surgery; the most common symptoms associated with alcohol consumption before desensitization were nasal congestion, rhinorrhea, and wheezing.

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Results showed that 86.5% of patients had an improvement in the ability to tolerate alcohol (95% CI, 75.5% to 97.5%), with 70.3% of patients (95% CI, 55.5% to 85%) describing desensitization as being “very helpful” or “extremely helpful” for improving their ability to tolerate alcohol.

“AERD can severely affect a patient’s quality of life, and when you combine the findings of this study with the clinical outcomes we can achieve, it shows aspirin desensitization can considerably improve quality of life for those who undergo it,” said John V. Bosso, MD, director of the Otorhinolaryngology Allergy Clinic and medical director of the Penn AERD Center.

The authors note that the lack of a control group limits the study findings. In addition, 7 patients enrolled in the study could not complete the treatment because of adverse reactions such as gastrointestinal problems.

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