Pfizer's vaccine hope Prevenar 13 wins new EU nod in adults

One reason Pfizer snapped up Wyeth in 2009: Its Prevnar/Prevenar vaccine franchise. Now, the latest version of the pneumococcal shot is Pfizer's fourth-biggest seller, with $3.72 billion in 2012 revenues. But Pfizer ($PFE) wants even more.

Enter a new indication in Europe. Regulators have approved Prevenar 13 for use in adults 18-49, a potentially big new market. It was already cleared for infants and children, as well as adults 50 and over, so the new indication gives Pfizer a chance to expand use to practically anyone in the EU.

And the franchise can use the boost. Sales in Europe actually declined last year because of a vaccine-scheduling blip--a necessary catch-up dose--that pumped up sales in 2011. In the first quarter of this year, sales took another hit because wholesalers were already well-stocked and held off on ordering more. At the time, Pfizer said it expected Prevnar/Prevenar sales to rebound as wholesalers resumed their orders.

Analysts have said that widespread use among adults could add $1.5 billion to Prevnar/Prevenar 13 sales. That would take the vaccine past $5 billion, a not-too-shabby fill-in for Lipitor sales lost to generic competition. But selling vaccines for adults is a tricker proposition than marketing for use in children. Parents are accustomed to having their kids vaccinated repeatedly as they grow, but adults tend to be lax about getting immunized.

Public health agencies can help; the World Health Organization prequalified Prevenar 13 for adults over 50 last year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, has yet to recommend the shot for adults, except for those at higher risk of disease, including patients with compromised immune systems. The CDC wanted to wait for data from a new study, CAPiTA, that's due this year. Since then, Pfizer has unveiled data from two studies designed to show Prevnar's usefulness in adults; one showed an immune response in patients with HIV, and another pointed up its potential for preventing pandemic flu-related pneumonia.

- read the release from Pfizer
- get the Reuters article

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