The pills that might save us all – from cancer, Zika and 9/11

Pfizer has turned a page with the announcement of one-dose vaccines for meningitis B. Around the world, meningitis B has caused many thousands of deaths, and even more parents have considered taking an “access-to-acute-care” drug with a prescription for $20,000 a year. With the Epvyn vaccine it licensed in 2016, Pfizer plans to make $1.5bn in annual sales for its B vaccine. Pfizer makes many other vaccines, but the number of people vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP), and whooping cough (pertussis) has declined over the years. The primary reason has been that a one-shot booster (DTaP-M) has never managed to pass regulatory approval in the US. Clinical trials for the long-anticipated diphtheria booster showed “significant” protection. But the Zika shot is widely considered as a failure, a “domestic fiasco” as one news site put it, because many people became confused about where the vaccine was being manufactured (in India). It didn’t pass FDA approval, and the companies behind it declined to allow it to be used in the US (in part due to fears it would be used to draw rich tourists from emerging economies to Miami). The Epvyn, meanwhile, passed FDA approval in the US and Europe, but other countries declined to allow it to be used there. Eventually, Epvyn was licensed in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Japan, Russia, and South Africa, but US producers haven’t been able to jump through all the regulatory hoops needed to enter their market.

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