My “You gotta be kidding me!” moment

Last month, I was in my doctor’s office, and at the end of the visit, I asked him if I should get the “shingles shot”, or varicella zoster vaccine. Since I was a year past my due date, of course he said “yes”. So I got the shot, and left feeling smug and righteous about being immune to another disease. I have seen senior citizens with post-herpetic neuralgia, the common complication of shingles in older folks, and I *really* don’t want that.

Then, last week, this comes out in the news:

…(A)n advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday recommended the use of a new vaccine to prevent shingles over an older one that was considered less effective.

The decision was made just days after the Food and Drug Administration announced approval of the new vaccine, called Shingrix and manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, for adults ages 50 and older. The panel’s recommendation gives preference to the new vaccine over Merck’s Zostavax, which has been the only shingles vaccine on the market for over a decade and was recommended for people ages 60 and older.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also recommended that adults who have received the older vaccine get the new one…Insurance companies must also agree to cover the cost of the vaccine, which GSK estimates to be $280 for two doses.

Given in one dose, Zostavax had shown a 51 percent reduction in shingles and a 67 percent reduction in nerve pain. Shingrix is given in two doses, and the company said clinical trials showed it to be about 98 percent effective for one year and about 85 percent over three years.

So, as soon as my insurance company will pay for it, I will be trekking back to my PCP’s office again, and rolling up my sleeve.

Gene Therapy’s First Out-and-Out Cure Is Here

Faster, please…

A treatment now pending approval in Europe will be the first commercial gene therapy to provide an outright cure for a deadly disease.

The treatment is a landmark for gene-replacement technology, an idea that’s struggled for three decades to prove itself safe and practical.

Called Strimvelis, and owned by drug giant GlaxoSmithKline, the treatment is for severe combined immune deficiency, a rare disease that leaves newborns with almost no defense against viruses, bacteria, or fungi and is sometimes called “bubble boy” disease after an American child whose short life inside a protective plastic shield was described in a 1976 movie.

Read the whole thing.

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Ebola vaccine ready for trials

An Ebola vaccine being developed by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has been deemed safe enough to be trialled soon. Healthy individuals in West African countries, where the virus has rampaged, will be the first to participate.

In an announcement reported by the Associated Press, Marie-Paule Kieny, the assistant director general of Health Systems and Innovation at the World Health Organization, revealed that both the GSK vaccine and one licensed by Merck and NewLink, have “an acceptable safety profile.”

According to Kieny, who is helping coordinate the hunt for an Ebola vaccine, six-month-long trials will begin in West Africa and health workers could be among the first to receive it. Doctors, nurses and volunteers continue to put themselves in harm’s way everyday in affected areas of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, with WHO revealing this week that around 800 have been infected since the outbreak. More than 8,000 people have died from the disease in total, including 500 health workers, and more than 20,000 have been infected.

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