VACCINES: CDC Committee to Take Cost into Consideration
As drug and vaccine manufacturers "increasingly target less-severe illnesses with pricey medications, government experts will be forced to begin debating if the cure is worth the cost," the Wall Street Journal reports. Such is the case with Prevenar, a vaccine to prevent deaths and illnesses from meningitis, pneumonia, blood poisoning and ear infections that is manufactured by American Home Products Corp. Some doctors advising the government say that the vaccine's $232 cost for a four-dose series is "just too high," and the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is expected to vote today to recommend the vaccine be given only to children under age two who are the most susceptible to illness. But this case is unusual, as government vaccine experts "rarely worry about price," because research proves that "vaccines save more money than they cost by preventing expensive and deadly illnesses." ACIP Chair John Modlin said, "In the past ACIP has not focused heavily on vaccine cost. I think we are being forced to do so now."
Medicine & Economics
But Jon Abramson, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on infectious diseases and a non-voting member of ACIP, said that many in the medical community feel "very uncomfortable" balancing economics with medical benefits. Other critics worry that the FDA, which determines whether vaccines are safe and effective, and the CDC, which then debates whether the vaccine is needed, "aren't set up to engage in this kind of cost-benefit assessment." Richard Zimmerman, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a non-voting member of ACIP, said, "The ACIP is mostly made up of infectious-disease experts who see the people who die and suffer from infectious disease. There are not enough people thinking in terms of health economics, where to put health care dollars" (Harris, 2/16).