Pfizer closes in on $1B-plus sales boost for Prevnar 13 vaccine

Pfizer is one step closer to another $1 billion-plus in sales for its Prevnar 13 franchise. Data from a huge new study showed that Prevnar worked at preventing pneumonia in patients 65 or older, which puts the vaccine in line for stepped-up use.

The CAPiTA trial tested Prevnar 13, designed to prevent pneumococcal disease, in 85,000 patients in that age group. According to Pfizer ($PFE), the shot worked to prevent a first episode of community-acquired pneumonia, which was the primary endpoint of the study. As Forbes notes, it's the first study that shows a pneumococcal vaccine not only stimulates antibodies in patients, but actually prevents them from getting sick.

The study success is likely to spawn applications for new or updated uses in the U.S. and elsewhere, though the company hedged a bit on that in its press release. It certainly will boost Prevnar's case at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In adults, the CDC recommends the shot for high-risk patients, including those with compromised immune systems. For the rest, the agency said it would wait to see the CAPiTA data.

"Pfizer looks forward to sharing the CAPiTA data with U.S. and worldwide regulatory authorities, and vaccine technical committees, to help inform decisions regarding potential Prevenar 13 label and recommendation updates," Emilio A. Emini, Pfizer's SVP of vaccine R&D, said in a statement. The company will also consider "other key factors," including the "current burden of pneumococcal disease" in adults. The company markets the shot under the Prevenar name in certain countries.

Already a $4 billion product, Prevnar could hit $5 billion, analysts have said. That could go higher, ISI Group's Mark Schoenebaum said in an investor note this morning. Prevnar 13's only competitor is Merck's ($MRK) Pneumovax, and studies suggest the Pfizer vaccine can stimulate a stronger, more durable antibody response. If Pfizer could grab sales from the $650 million Pneumovax, Schoenebaum figures, Prevnar could hit about $1.5 billion in the age group. That's even if overall use of community-acquired pneumonia vaccines doesn't grow.

There are still some questions about the study that won't be answered till full results are presented next month at a conference in India, including how well it worked in certain subgroups of patients. Stay tuned.

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