Pneumococcal pneumonia is a common but serious infection and inflammation of the lungs. It is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. Symptoms of bacterial pneumonia include a cough, sputum (mucus) production that may be pus-like or bloody, shaking and chills, fever, and chest pain. Symptoms often have an abrupt beginning and occur after an upper respiratory infection such as a cold. Symptoms may differ somewhat in the elderly, with minimal cough, no sputum and no fever, but rather tiredness and confusion leading to hypothermia and shock.
"The new drug, Pneumococcal 13-valent Conjugate Vaccine, has been fast-tracked by the Food and Drug Administration, and is on the market under the brand name Prevnar 13."
The 42 million people in the U.S. who are between 50 and 65 may soon have a new vaccine to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia - a virulent form of the disease estimated to infect between 5 and 10 million people a year in the United States, and killing between 40,000 to 70,000 annually, according to the Global Healthy Living Foundation.
"This is a chance to positively impact the vaccination rate for adults, and hopefully save lives and reduce the cost of healthcare," says pulmonologist Dr. Neil Schachter, M.D., author of the popular books, "Life and Breath" and "The Good Doctor's Guide To Colds and Flu."
The new drug, Pneumococcal 13-valent Conjugate Vaccine, has been fast-tracked by the Food and Drug Administration, and is on the market under the brand name Prevnar 13. It is now awaiting final guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which meets February 23, 2012. The guidance ensures Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance will pay for the drug. The advisory committee has already approved it for children.
Another vaccine, Pneumovax 23, is FDA-approved only for children and people over 65, unless they are in a high-risk category, so Prevnar13 will cover the more than 42 million people between 50 and 65 the current drug misses, as well as the more than 72 million people 65 and older, and children.
"Pneumococcal pneumonia is a very high mortality disease," Dr. Schachter says. "It claims the life of 12 percent of those people hospitalized with the condition, so prevention is critical," he adds.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center men are 30 percent more likely than women to die from the condition, and even when they survive, they are likely to die earlier than if they had not contracted the disease.
Medpage, a medical website, estimates that pneumococcal vaccination among high-risk adults under 65 is only 18.5 percent, compared with 59.7 percent for people over 65.
The CDC, in its 2010 National Health Interview Survey released February 3, 2012, found, "only limited recent improvements in vaccination coverage among adults in the United States. Substantial increases are needed to reduce the occurrence of vaccine-preventable diseases among adults."
Vaccines, because of their preventive capabilities, are by far the most cost-effective medicines on the market today, but they are often viewed as children's drugs. Recently however, adult vaccines such as those for shingles and pneumonia, have joined flu vaccines as popular adult medications.
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