Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that can lead to serious complications such as hearing loss, brain or kidney damage, limb amputations and possibly death. Although there are antibiotics that may reduce risk of complications of deaths, the disease must be treated quickly. Currently, in the United States, there are vaccines covering four of the five serogroups groups of bacteria containing a common antigen that cause meningococcal disease. Now, a new vaccine Trumenba has just been approved in the United States that covers the fifth serogroup B.
The approval of the new vaccine, developed by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc., is based on studies of 2800 teens that found that 82 percent of those teens vaccinated with Trumenba had antibodies in their blood that killed serogroup B strains compared with one percent of teens who had not been vaccinated. Safety was also assessed in studies conducted in the United States, Europe and Australia. The vaccine is meant for individuals ages 10 to 25.
Bexsero, produced by Novartis, protects against this fifth serogroup as well, but has not yet been approved in the US. However, Novartis provided almost 30,000 doses of Bexsero to students and staff at Princeton University and the University of California Santa Barbara following outbreaks of meningitis B on their campuses earlier this year. This was made possible due to the FDA s Investigational New Drug program in which a pharmaceutical company is given permission to ship experimental drugs to places in which they have not yet gotten approval.
ACSH s Ariel Savransky adds, Although this strain of meningitis is not very common only 160 cases were reported in 2012 the fact is that now there is a vaccine approved in the US that can prevent this disease. Furthermore, the complications from this disease can be fatal. Once again, vaccines are a public health miracle and now that this vaccine exists, it should be used.
ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom says, While it may seem redundant to have two vaccines to treat the same infection, there is not only no harm, but a potential advantage. With time and post-marketing studies, differences between the two may become apparent as larger numbers of people get vaccinated. This was the case with drugs for hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. Winners and losers financially and medically were often not determined until many more people were using the drugs.