You can’t talk about the emergence of sublingual immunotherapy in the U.S. without mentioning Dr. David Morris (1929-2017), a true innovator in allergy. When traditional allergy treatment didn’t work for his patients, he didn’t tell them to give up and live with their symptoms — he changed the narrative on what allergy treatment could and should be with tailored sublingual immunotherapy using the La Crosse Method™ Protocol.
In honor of Allergychoices’ 20th anniversary, we want to share the story of what drove Dr. Morris to look for other treatment options for his patients, and how it led him to dedicate his career to helping patients using the La Crosse Method. Ultimately, he founded Allergychoices to create easier access to affordable, disease-modifying care to patients and providers. The history shared in this blog is only a condensed outline of the incredible work Dr. Morris and his partners have done to offer a groundbreaking treatment that has impacted so many.
1957 – Dr. Morris joins clinic in West Salem
After medical school, Dr. Morris started practicing at a traditional general medical practice in West Salem, Wisconsin. After using allergy shots to treat allergic patients for a few years, Dr. Morris focused in on the groups of patients that were strictly excluded, or who didn’t respond well, from allergy shot treatment.
Shots weren’t safe for food allergies, young children, or those with severe allergies or asthma — and those limitations remain true today. Being a doctor in rural Wisconsin, many of his patients were farmers, and most had mold allergy and related Farmer’s Lung. After treating them with allergy shots, his patients experienced more complications than improvement. Many farmers reacted with fevers, swelling, soreness, and worsened breathing symptoms. Weekly allergy shots made farming nearly impossible.
1966 – Dr. Morris dives deeper into allergy drops
Interested in other options for disease-modifying treatment, Dr. Morris attended an allergy conference in Hawaii. He sat in on a session by Ohio pediatrician Frank Waickman, who had successfully treated pollen allergies by placing antigen drops under the tongue — sublingual immunotherapy. It was something that had been used routinely in Europe for years. It was a light bulb moment, and Dr. Morris’ wheels started spinning on his flight back to Wisconsin.
1967 – Wednesday night allergy clinic starts
After research and preparation, Dr. Morris started a Wednesday night allergy clinic where he offered skin testing and sublingual immunotherapy to his patients with allergies to pollen, dust, and dander. Here, the La Crosse Method Protocol was born and used in practice for the first time.
He found success in treating a variety of environmental allergens, and extended treatment into sublingual immunotherapy for food allergies. Patients left his Wednesday night clinic with two vials, one for their environmental allergens, and one for their food allergens. Word about this treatment started to spread locally, and high demand caused the Wednesday night clinic to trickle into his every day practice.
1970 – Allergy Associates of La Crosse opens
Sublingual immunotherapy had caught on — rarely were there patients choosing allergy shots over allergy drops. In 1970, Dr. Morris opened what has become the largest sole sublingual immunotherapy clinic in the U.S., called Allergy Associates of La Crosse (AAOL). He had a loyal patient population that he hoped would continue treatment as he moved his practice 10 miles east to La Crosse, Wisconsin.
On this first day in practice, his schedule was totally booked. His previous patients followed him, and new patients who had heard from others about Dr. Morris’ approach traveled from near and far. Over the years, he became the go-to “drop doc” for allergic conditions that were dismissed by many primary care doctors and specialists.
2000 – The La Crosse Method is published and Allergychoices is founded
Patients were traveling from across the country — some internationally — to receive the disease modifying and life-changing treatment that Dr. Morris pioneered. Dr. Morris and his partners recognized the growing need for access to a treatment that was safe, effective, affordable, and convenient.
In 2000, Dr. Morris founded Allergychoices to share the Protocol with providers interested in implementing the La Crosse Method in their own practices, to provide ongoing support, and to inform allergy sufferers about this treatment option. Within a few years, the Protocol was officially published, shared, and Allergychoices expanded its services to help patients and providers succeed with the treatment. Services include:
The Protocol has been shared with more than 2,000 providers across the country who are helping patients find long-term relief with these precise liquid drops taken under the tongue. The patient population has evolved from farmers with mold allergy to infants with severe eczema due to food allergy, teens with asthma that has kept them from playing their favorite sports, to adults who once avoided foods because of previous anaphylactic reactions — because that was their only option.
Over the years, research on sublingual immunotherapy has expanded, and many studies based on our Protocol have proven treatment is effective. Dr. Morris and his partners have been a driving force in expanding U.S. research on the treatment; and research outcomes of the La Crosse Method Protocol’s use have been validated by the Validation Institute.
But most importantly, publishing and sharing the La Crosse Method has allowed over 250,000 patients across the country to treat the cause of their allergies close to home.
Providers, we can help you add this disease-modifying treatment option for your allergic patients. And patients, we can help you find a provider that offers treatment near you. We’ve done it for 20 years, and we hope to continue so more patients might experience life without suffering from allergic diseases.
By Taylor Pasell, Allergychoices