Novartis drug guards against meningitis cause
Zurich, June 9, 2011
Novartis’ Bexsero vaccine helps protect toddlers against the most common cause of meningitis when used as a booster, the Swiss drugmaker said on Thursday based on a study, giving its meningitis franchise another lift.
A late-stage study showed that toddlers who had already had three doses as infants were protected against the meningococcal serogroup B, or MenB, when later given extra doses, cutting their risk of catching the potentially deadly illness.
MenB is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis and at the moment there is no vaccine against this.
Novartis has already filed for approval in Europe and other countries such as Canada and is working with the US authorities to design a US-specific phase III trial.
"I am more confident than I have ever been," Andrin Oswald, head of Novartis' vaccines unit told Reuters when asked about how likely approval was.
"We submitted the vaccine for approval in December in Europe. It normally takes 12-18 months for a vaccine to be approved. In this case, this is a highly innovative technology so it may take closer to 18 months than 12," Oswald said.
Approval of Bexsero would mean that Novartis would be able to provide vaccines to protect against all causes of meningitis, which has a high incidence rate amongst infants and can leave them brain damaged, deaf or with learning difficulties.
The Vaccines & Diagnostics unit, Novartis' smallest, has three types of meningitis vaccines, including the recently launched Menveo, which protects against other causes of meningitis.
Oswald said he was still confident that the meningitis franchise will be a blockbuster franchise for the unit.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord and can kill within hours.
A separate study showed that the Bexsero vaccine also protected infants against MenB when given alone or in connection with other vaccines and that it had an acceptable tolerability profile. – Reuters