U.S. Panel Says Seniors Should Get Pfizer’s Prevnar 13

Pfizer Inc. won the backing of a key U.S. advisory panel to recommend its vaccine Prevnar 13 for people ages 65 and older to help prevent infections including pneumonia and meningitis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, voted 13-2 yesterday to add Prevnar 13 to a list of recommended vaccines that includes Merck & Co.’s Pneumovax 23. The committee plans to revisit the recommendation in 2018.

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover vaccines recommended by ACIP without asking patients to pay a share. With $3.97 billion in sales last year, the inoculation is New York-based Pfizer’s second-best selling product.

The advisory panel considered a clinical trial Pfizer conducted on 85,000 patients who received either the company’s vaccine or a placebo. Among those who got Prevnar 13, there were 46 percent fewer first episodes of community-acquired pneumonia than among the placebo group.

People 65 and older who haven’t received Pneumovax 23 would get a dose of Prevnar 13, followed by Pneumovax 23. Those who have been immunized with Pneumovax 23 would get a shot of Prevnar 13.

Medicare, the U.S. health program for the elderly and disabled, would immediately cover Prevnar 13. However, it may take more than a year for the program to determine whether to pay for a following dose of Pneumovax 23 in patients who had never been immunized, the panel said.

Expanded Use

The Food and Drug Administration first approved Prevnar 13 for use in children in 2010, then added adults age 50 and older in 2011. It is already recommended for routine use in children younger than age 5 and people with compromised immune systems caused by conditions such as cancer, AIDS and advanced kidney disease. Merck’s related vaccine, Pneumovax 23, was approved more than 30 years ago.

Both therapies are approved to prevent infections from pneumococcus bacteria that can cause pneumonia, meningitis and blood and ear infections, according to the CDC. About 900,000 Americans get pneumococcal pneumonia each year and as many as 7 percent die, the CDC said. About 90 percent of cases are adults.

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