Flu could goose Pneumovax sales

We know that antiviral drugmakers Roche and GlaxoSmithKline are reaping big sales from the H1N1 swine flu pandemic. And that vaccine makers--including Glaxo, Sanofi-Aventis, Baxter, and more--are, too. But could the swine flu pandemic be a boost to Merck's pneumonia vaccine? If doctors and patients follow some public health advice, it will.

According to the Los Angeles Times, pulmonologists and other health experts say they're recommending Pneumovax as a strategy for avoiding the riskiest complication of swine flu. That vaccine has the potential to prevent some one-third of pneumonia deaths linked to the pandemic flu. Preliminary research shows that about 30 percent of pneumonia cases in flu patients were caused by a strain of S. pneumoniae, and Pneumovax protects against 23 of those strains.

"Most of my pulmonary patients are already getting [Pneumovax], but I am broadening my recommendation to other patients," one pulmonologist told the LAT. Expanded use of the vaccine obviously would be a boon to Merck. But at the very least, all the attention might attract people who are already strongly advised to get the shot. And that in itself would be a boost, because that advice has fallen on deaf ears, at least among smokers, asthmatics, and other younger folks (two-thirds of people over 65 have received the vaccine). We'll see if they listen now.

- see the LAT story