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Panel Recommends Pfizer’s Prevnar for Immune-Weakened Adults

Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine Prevnar 13, used to prevent pneumococcal disease, should be given to adults with weakened immune systems, according to a U.S. panel that recommends vaccination schedules to doctors.

The U.S. Advisory Committee on Vaccine Practices voted today that people with AIDS, cancer, organ transplants, advanced kidney disease and other immune-weakening conditions should receive the vaccine. The recommendation includes people who’ve already had Merck & Co.’s Pneumovax 23, a competitor to New York-based Pfizer’s product.

The Food and Drug Administration in December approved Prevnar 13 for use in adults at least 50 years old. The vaccine panel, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, recommends vaccinations to doctors and has yet to decide whether all adults 50 years old and older should get Prevnar 13. Such a ruling would be a major sales boost to sales of the product, Tony Butler, an analyst with Barclays Capital, said in a note to clients in February.

Pfizer said it will continue to urge the panel to support giving the vaccine to all adults at least 50 years old. A company study of Prevnar in 84,000 people 65 and older should have results by 2013, the drugmaker said in a statement.

If recommended in the older population, Pfizer’s vaccine would go head-to-head with Merck’s product. “It is important for clinicians to continue to focus on implementing the ACIP’s long-standing recommendation for use of only Pneumovax 23 to help protect all adults aged 65 and older, as well as adults 19 and older,” Mark Feinberg, chief science of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck’s vaccine division, said in a statement.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.6 million people die each year from pneumococcal infections. Pfizer’s vaccine generated $941 million in the first quarter, and was the drugmaker’s third-best-selling product behind the cholesterol pill Lipitor and pain drug Lyrica.

Pfizer fell less than 1 percent to $22.67 at the close in New York. Merck declined less than 1 percent to $39.21.

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