Antera Therapeutics, a US-based biomedical start-up, is trying to convince worried parents to fork out US$180 ($252) for a three-month supply of Aralyte, intended to help prevent peanut allergy in infants, The Verge reports.
Aralyte, a "distilled peanut extract" which comes in individual 4mL capsules designed for regular dosing, was created off the back of an influential medical study which found introducing high risk children to small doses of peanut protein actually reduced the incidence of allergy.
But medical experts, according to The Verge, say the product has "dubious utility", while an equivalent amount of peanut butter - which does the job just as well - would cost around $2.60.
"The Aralyte website indicates that the minimum schedule for low-risk children is three months, but that 'doctors agree that use for 24 months confers maximum protection to all children'," author David Zwieg writes.
"At that duration, parents will spend a staggering $US1440 ($2015) on Aralyte.
Another way to look at the cost: if Aralyte were sold as typical peanut butter it would cost over $US400 ($560) per jar."
The company's website quotes Harvard Medical School immunologist Dr Caroline Sokol, who says the Learning Early About Peanut allergy study, known as the LEAP study, highlighted the benefits of early introduction.
"However, many parents aren't sure how to safely feed their infants peanuts," she writes.
"Aralyte fills that void by providing parents with controlled amounts of peanut proteins and added nutrients in an infant-friendly formulation, all under the direction of a physician.
"I would recommend it to every child."
Dr Sokol has a financial stake in Antera Therapeutics, but this is not disclosed on the website. A second doctor had his testimonial removed from the Antera website.
"Weaning is a normal developmental process in life," Carina Venter, chair of the International Network of Diet and Nutrition in Allergy, told The Verge. "(Aralyte) is medicalising something that should be natural."