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May 01, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 9)

Emerging Vaccines Set to Shake Up Market

Novel Products for Malaria, Diabetes, Addiction, and Others Could Change the Nature of Healthcare

  • There are myriad challenges that healthcare providers face today including: spiraling costs, an aging population, the rapid globalization of diseases, and diseases for which there is no treatment. A product that could solve all of these problems would be wildly successful. While there is no such silver bullet at present, vaccine products, where they exist for a disease category, come pretty close to being such a panacea.

    Vaccines are cost effective—every dollar invested in vaccination returns between $7 to $20 in averted healthcare costs; they tend to be available for diseases that affect the older population more harshly; and they have the potential to be effective globally, where other treatments are not cost effective.

    While sales of existing vaccines accounted for less than 2% of the world pharmaceutical market, which approached $800 billion in 2009, their growth will continue to outpace that of the broader drug market. The success of products such as Gardasil and the recent H1N1 influenza vaccine is expected to accelerate the pharmaceutical industry’s interest in vaccines.

    Using a range of technologies and mechanisms of action, emerging vaccines are being designed to address both infectious and noninfectious disease. From allergies to diabetes to Ross River fever, vaccine developers are investigating a large number of indications that previously would have been considered untreatable via inoculation.  

  • Addiction

    There are few effective pharmaceutical treatments for drug addiction. While many health insurers will not cover treatments such as Suboxone, the families of many drug addicts are highly motivated to do so. It is not uncommon for families to pay thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket for in-patient rehabilitation therapy.

    In October 2009, a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry reported that early-stage trials sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found a 38% reduction in cocaine use among participants in a clinical trial who were vaccinated with an addiction vaccine candidate. Antibody production was reportedly sustained for another nine months following the vaccine treatment.

    Anti-alcoholism vaccines are currently on the market as well. In April 2006, the FDA approved Vivitrol, a product produced by Alkermes and marketed by Cephalon. It is intended for use in combination with psychosocial support.

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