Pfizer, Merck pick up hefty vax sales bump with CDC nod in seniors

Pfizer's ($PFE) Prevnar 13, the world's best-selling vaccine, scored a big win Wednesday, nabbing a CDC committee nod for universal use in adults over the age of 65. And once payer coverage kicks in, that's a nod that could be worth $2 billion for Pfizer, analysts say--with Merck's ($MRK) Pneumovax getting a boost, too.

According to a 13-2 vote from the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), all elderly adults--even those who have previously received the Merck vaccine--should get a Prevnar shot.  And adults who have never had either pneumococcal shot should receive a dose of Prevnar followed by a dose of Pneumovax, it said.

"Estimates have placed the yearly direct and indirect costs of adult hospitalizations and outpatient cases due to pneumococcal pneumonia in the United States at nearly $5 billion," Susan Silbermann, Pfizer's vaccines president, said in a statement. "As healthcare professionals in the U.S. begin to implement this new ACIP recommendation, 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."

Pfizer Vaccines President Susan Silbermann

Leerink Partners analyst Seamus Fernandez expects the Prevnar uptake to be quick, especially considering that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will "de facto" confer coverage of Prevnar for those covered seniors receiving their first pneumococcal vaccine.

But for those who have already gotten Pneumovax, coverage may not come until early 2016, delaying some of Pfizer's revenues, and, perhaps, uptake of that newly recommended dose of Pneumovax. "CMS' accommodation of the ACIP recommendation in its final coverage rule and the agency's publication timeline are likely to be important to determining the ultimate impact on vaccine sales" for both Pfizer and Merck, Fernandez said.

But whatever sales lifts the two companies pick up, while they could be significant, may not last for long. ACIP said the recommendation for routine use in seniors--if ultimately ratified by the CDC director--should be reevaluated come 2018, reflecting the possibility that by then, herd immunity may be able to protect the over-65 crowd on its own. 

- read Pfizer's release
- read Merck's statement
- see FierceVaccines' take

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