Thumbs Down for Bexsero from the JCVI

It’s the only approved vaccine for Meningitis B and it has just been refused entry onto the UK’s routine vaccine schedule, in an interim decision made by the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). Bexsero, developed by Novartis, has been branded “too expensive” by the committee and they have placed doubt on the substantiality of the clinical evidence.

Meningitis B is the most dangerous strain of meningitis, especially in young infants but its cases have been falling; in 2000 there were 1700 cases in England and Wales, but in 2012 there were just 600. The worrying thing about Meningitis B is its ability to transfer rapidly (so an epidemic situation is possible) and it’s high mortality rate, with survivors often being left with disabilities and brain damage. This can occur in as little as 24 hours and effective treatments are thin on the ground.

Speaking of their decision, the JCVI have said that the vaccine is too expensive for routine use and that they have unanswered questions regarding the efficacy of the drug, such as how long it provides immunity to the individual and whether or not an individual can still carry the disease if they have been vaccinated.

This interim decision is another nail in the coffin for Novartis’s ailing vaccines division. With the UK looking to turn away the drug for routine vaccination, it may make it harder for the pharma giant to get other countries on board. Novartis have defended their drug, which has taken 20 years to develop, and have pushed for price negotiations with the JVCI.

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