Study finds ‘missed opportunity’ in pneumonia vaccinations for celiac patients

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Pfizer got a $2 billion boost when the CDC recommended its Prevnar 13 pneumococcal disease vaccine in adults over 65. Now, the New York pharma and another top vaccine player, Merck, stand to gain from a new study that suggests patients of any age with celiac disease can benefit from pneumococcal vaccination.

The work, published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, points to the fact that a majority of patients with celiac, a disease that affects about 1 in 100 people, go unvaccinated and are at a higher risk of contracting the infection than their vaccinated counterparts. Researchers examined data from 9,803 people with celiac disease in England from 1997 to 2011 compared to data from 101,755 people without the autoimmune disorder.

Even though the groups contracted pneumonia at similar rates overall, celiac patients under 65 who weren’t vaccinated were 28% more likely to catch pneumonia than those who were vaccinated. Because only 37% of celiac patients had been vaccinated--only 26% got the vaccine after diagnosis--the researchers concluded there is currently a “missed opportunity” to protect unvaccinated celiac patients.

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And the team was able to isolate the increased pneumonia risk in celiac patients under 65. The heightened risk was at its greatest near diagnosis and persisted after more than 5 years, according to the team.

In citing links between celiac disease and issues with the spleen, Reuters said Dr. Shamez Ladhani, a Public Health England official, recommends that patients with spleen problems get a pneumococcal vaccination every 5 years and a flu vaccination every year.

With sales of $6.2 billion last year, Pfizer’s Prevnar franchise is the dominant pneumococcal vaccine market force and the biggest vaccine by sales worldwide. Merck’s Pneumovax 23 brought in $542 million in 2015.

- here’s the abstract
- and the Reuters story

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