Analysis: Sanofi's Fluzone High Dose for adults 65+ results in lower medical costs

While the flu vaccine is the best way to prepare for flu season, older adults don't have as robust an immune response to the jab as young people do. To address this problem, Sanofi Pasteur formulated a higher-dose version of its trivalent Fluzone vaccine, which beat standard Fluzone in efficacy in a 2014 study. And now, a new analysis of that study shows it's more cost-effective for older adults, too.

The data for the analysis, which was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, was taken from the 2014 study, a Phase IIIb-IV trial of Fluzone High Dose that enrolled more than 31,000 adults aged 65 and older. It was supplemented with U.S. healthcare cost data.

The trial randomly assigned patients into two groups, with one getting the standard dose of Fluzone and the other getting the high-dose version. Participants were followed for 6 to 8 months after vaccination to record any cases of flu, adverse events and medical encounters, Sanofi said in a statement. "Healthcare utilization" such as hospitalizations, use of prescription and nonprescription medicines and emergency room visits were also recorded.

The average per-participant medical costs were lower in the high-dose group than in the standard-dose group. That adds to the Phase IIIb-IV data, which showed the vaccine was 24.2% more effective than standard Fluzone in preventing laboratory-confirmed flu in older adults.

Fluzone, approved by the FDA in 2009, was the third-best-selling vaccine product worldwide in 2014 with $1.72 billion in sales. It came behind Pfizer's ($PFE) Prevnar and Merck's ($MRK) Gardasil.

Several players are working toward a better flu vaccine, with Novavax ($NVAX) and VaxInnate working on recombinant seasonal jabs--as opposed to the traditional flu shot produced in eggs--and FluGen, BiondVax ($BVXV), NIAID and tandem Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and The Scripps Research Institute developing "universal" flu vaccines.

- read the release
- here's the cost analysis abstract
- and here's the Phase IIIb-IV abstract

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