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US expands recommended use of meningitis B vaccines

Butopts not to back routine use of GSK's Bexsero and Pfizer' Trumenba

vaccination vaccines 

The US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has said decisions to vaccinate with meningitis B (Men B) vaccines from Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline in peopled aged 16 to 23 should be taken on an individual basis.

But the panel - part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - opted not to recommend routine vaccination with GSK's Bexsero and Pfizer's Trumenba, though it did expand the target population.

In February, the ACIP said Trumenba and Bexsero should be considered only for high-risk patients in the 10 to 25 age group, but it was persuaded to revisit the recommendation after the two companies and patient groups argued that this was too narrow.

The new category B recommendation effectively means that the vaccine can be given if the patient or parent, and their physician, agree it is appropriate, but it has disappointed groups that were hoping for a firmer category A recommendation.

Nevertheless, it covers the preferred age for Men B vaccination - 16 to 18 years - and also paves the way for coverage of the vaccine by health insurers, although Pfizer has advised doctors to "contact their individual plan to determine specific coverage and reimbursement requirements".

Lynn Bozof, president of the National Meningitis Association (NMA), said: "While we would have preferred a routine recommendation, the permissive recommendation - if accepted by CDC - will ensure these vaccines are covered by private and public insurance … and medical practices will be more likely to stock and administer them.”

The ACIP's recommendation comes just days after the UK became the first country in the world to start implementing (in England and Scotland) a widespread Men B vaccination programme, with infants aged from two months due to be given Bexsero from September.

The UK Department of Health agreed to the programme after months of negotiating the price of Bexsero with GSK, and will also offer the company's Menveo vaccine for meningitis A, C, W and Y (Men ACWY) to students in the 17 to 25 age bracket.

Meningococcal diseases affect between 600 and 1,000 people a year in the US, says the NMA. While Men B can be treated with antibiotics the infection is fatal in 10-15% of cases and leaves almost one in five survivors with permanent disabilities.

GSK sells meningitis vaccines to Pfizer

Meanwhile, Pfizer has bolstered its meningitis vaccine range with the acquisition of Nimenrix and Mencevax - both used to protect against Men ACWY - from GSK for $130m. 

GSK was required to divest the meningitis vaccines by regulators after it acquired Novartis vaccines assets earlier this year in a deal that brought in both Bexsero and Menveo. In a statement, the UK firm noted that the vaccines are sold outside the US and had combined sales last year of £34m ($53m).

Susan Silbermann, president of Pfizer's vaccines division, said: "Adding these two innovative and complementary vaccines to our current portfolio will allow us to more completely respond to meningococcal disease outbreaks as well as proactively address a critical public health need - the prevention of meningococcal disease across all ages."

Article by
Phil Taylor

25th June 2015

From: Sales, Healthcare

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