AstraZeneca's FluMist wins CDC committee's backing after two missed years

A CDC committee backed AstraZeneca's FluMist for use next flu season. (Pixabay)

After two years of very minimal use in the U.S., AstraZeneca's FluMist is one step closer to making its return next flu season thanks to a Wednesday recommendation from the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. 

The committee voted 12-2 in favor of the vaccine after the drugmaker changed its strain selection process, AZ reported on Wednesday. For the previous two flu seasons, the CDC has recommended against FluMist use due to efficacy problems, deeply hurting sales for the needle-free flu vaccine option. 

In its Wednesday vote, the advisory committee stopped short of issuing a full-on endorsement. According to the NBC News, the experts tweaked the wording of the recommendation to suggest that doctors can choose whether to use FluMist.

For the vote, the committee reviewed results of a study of the vaccine in children aged 2 to 4 that showed a H1N1 strain included for the 2017-2018 season performed "significantly better" than an older version, according to the drugmaker. AZ said it plans to share the full study results at an upcoming medical meeting. 

The vaccine will still be subject to annual strain approval by the FDA for next season. 

FluMist stands to represent another option for doctors after a devastating flu season in recent months. According to a recent CDC interim report, this year's flu shot is just 36% effective. The agency said flu activity has been particularly strong this year, resulting in the deaths of at least 84 children. 

AstraZeneca reported $288 million in FluMist sales in 2015, before ACIP recommended against its use the following year due to efficacy problems. As the problem persisted last June, experts once again recommended against the vaccine. AstraZeneca recorded $104 million in FluMist sales in 2016 and $78 million last year.