Babies Die While Officials Haggle With Novartis AG Over Cost Of Bexsero Vaccine

Published: Nov 11, 2014

Babies Die While Officials Haggle With Novartis AG Over Cost Of Bexsero Vaccine

November 10, 2014

By Krystle Vermes, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Dozens of babies have died as a result of meningitis as the British government struggles to with the cost of vaccinations, according to the English newspaper The Daily Mail. The reports, which came out on Nov. 8, found that more than 20 babies have perished due to the disease since March.

Scientists claim that the babies should have been treated with a vaccine to protect against meningitis B, but the United Kingdom’s Department of Health has not settled on a price for the vaccine, developed by Novartis. Meningitis B is responsible for affecting more than 600 people a year, who are primarily under the age of five.

However, the disease can be prevented with the vaccine from Novartis . For the past eight months, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization and the Department of Health have not agreed with price makers on the vaccine’s cost.

“Thirty babies die of this [disease] a year,” said Conservative Representative Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, according to the news source. “Much more worryingly, 300 babies are severely maimed. There is a licensed and safe vaccine available. The issue is cost.”

At the time of the reports, Novartis did not comment on the matter. A spokesperson from the Department of Health has stated that the government is continuing to work on achieving a “cost effective price.”

Bexsero in the U.S.
The Bexsero vaccine from Novartis, designed to protect young adults from meningitis B, received Breakthrough Therapy designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration back in April. The goal was to progress the vaccine quickly in an attempt to treat more instances of the disease.

"Bexsero is the result of 20 years of groundbreaking research and a testament to our leadership in preventing rare but devastating diseases," said Andrin Oswald, the division head of Novartis Vaccines, at the time. "We are one step closer to ensuring that no family in the U.S. has to endure the loss of a loved one from vaccine-preventable meningitis."

Bexsero is the first broad coverage vaccine designed to help protect against meningitis B, and it has already been approved in 34 countries. The vaccine protects against invasive meningococcal disease caused by serogroup B in adolescents between 10 and 25 years of age.

Since its launch, 30,000 doses of Bexsero have been administered to staff and students at Princeton University and the University of California Santa Barbara following outbreaks of the disease.

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