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US panel backs pneumococcal vaccines for seniors

Vaccines to be provided by Merck & Co and Pfizer
US centers for disease control and prevention

Pneumococcal vaccines made by Pfizer and Merck & Co should be routinely offered to adults aged over 65 to prevent community-acquired pneumonia, according to a US advisory panel.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) decision places Pfizer's conjugate vaccine Prevnar 13 as the front-line shot, with Merck's polysaccharide-based Pneumovax 23 used to provide back-up protection.

Adults over 65 who have not previously received pneumococcal vaccine - or whose previous vaccination history is unknown - should receive a dose of Prevnar 13 first, followed by a dose of Pneumovax 23, according to the recommendations. Moreover, if patients have already received one or more Pneumovax 23 shots the ACIP recommends they top up their protection with Prevnar 13. The interval between the two doses has yet to be established.

The ACIP decision comes shortly after European regulators started their review of Pfizer's vaccine - known as Prevenar 13 in the EU - for the prevention of pneumococcal pneumonia in adults aged over 65.

Routine vaccination in the elderly could provide a big boost to sales of Prevnar 13, according to analysts at JP Morgan, who have suggested that the overall adult market for the vaccine is worth $1bn to $1.5bn, adding to its current $4bn in sales which come mainly from paediatric vaccination programmes.

About 900,000 US people get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, nearly half of whom end up in the hospital. Among adults 50 years of age and older, there are approximately 440,000 cases of pneumococcal pneumonia each year, causing around 25,000 deaths, and the cost burden to the US health system is around $5bn.

The ACIP recommendations now go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for review and approval. They will be re-evaluated in 2018 and revised "as needed", said the panel.

"We believe that Prevnar 13 can now help prevent vaccine-type pneumococcal pneumonia in older adults and has the potential to provide an important public health benefit," said Susan Silbermann, president of Pfizer's vaccines unit.

Meanwhile, Merck said it was pleased that Pneumovax 23 would continue to play an integral role in helping to prevent pneumococcal disease in adults who are at increased risk.

"Pneumococcal disease is still a significant burden and millions of adults remain at risk because of low vaccination rates," said Mark Feinberg, chief public health and science officer for Merck Vaccines.

Separately, Pfizer also said that the FDA has accepted its marketing application for LP2086, its candidate vaccine for the prevention of invasive meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B in 10 through 25 year olds. The new vaccine has also been granted a priority review by the US regulator so could be approved as early as February 14, 2015.

Article by
Phil Taylor

15th August 2014

From: Sales, Healthcare

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