Advocates slam protracted UK negotiations over Novartis meningitis B vaccine
More than 20 babies have died of meningitis B since March
- According to the British newspaper Daily Mail, the advocacy group Meningitis Now says that dozens of babies have died of meningitis B since a panel recommended that every infant be given Novartis' meningitis B vaccine Bexsero in March.
- The UK government reportedly did not launch negotiations with Novartis until August. And as of right now, the government and Novartis have yet to reach an agreement on pricing.
- Doctors' and advocates' groups have called the delay "unacceptable" and point out that people will continue to die of the infection in the absence of an available widely-available vaccine. Meningitis B disproportionately afflicts young children, and the death toll is expected to rise in the winter.
Meningitis B is a potentially deadly bacterial infection that can lead to loss of limbs, brain damage, and even death. UK Prime Minister David Cameron insists that he wants all Britons to have access to Bexsero, but in a "cost-effective" way.
Some doctors and advocate groups are saying the delay is unacceptable. "We have come to this historic moment, where we have a vaccine to protect against meningitis B, which now accounts for the lion’s share of cases," said Dr. Nelly Ninis, a pediatrician and adviser to Meningitis Now, in an interview with the Daily Mial. "But now we are fudging it."
The vaccine, which must be administered over three doses, would cost about the NHS about $358 per child, or nearly $238,500,000 annually. Novartis has reportedly offered the government a discount on the drug, but no hard figures are available at this point.