Clinical trials on an Indian-made product have yielded promising results in the prevention of meningitis. Following these promising findings, it might not be long before a cost effective meningitis vaccine is made available, say researchers, hopeful about the same.
The vaccine has already demonstrated a high level of safety and efficacy and is claimed to confer long lasting protection against Meningitis A, more prevalent in Africa. Clinical trials of the low cost vaccine would soon be initiated in Africa. Meningitis Vaccine Project, a non-profit group headed by Dr Mark LaForce, would coordinate the clinical trial.
Phase II clinical trials of the vaccine would soon be initiated in Mali and Gambia. Dr Mark LaForce intends to license the vaccine in India soon and request the WHO to permit bulk purchase of the vaccine, through the UNICEF.
If the vaccine were found to be safe for use in the African population, massive production of the vaccine would be taken up by the Serum Institute of India. The institute further guarantees delivery of the vaccine at a subsidized rate of 40 cents per dose, for a period of 10 years.
The researchers intend to achieve the target of widespread use of the vaccine in sub Saharan Africa by the end of 2009. Approximately 30, 000 to 250, 000 children in this region contract the infection, every year. About 10% of those infected lose their lives while the rest of the survivors turn deaf.
If the above plan were to be materialized, it would mark the first ever initiative taken for production of the vaccine, exclusively for use by the developing and underdeveloped countries. It would also ensure that the drug manufacturer receives an optimal level of profit.
Currently, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Aventis, both leading pharmaceutical companies, are producing meningitis vaccine. The high cost of the vaccine and the high effectiveness of the vaccine in children over 2 years of age, limit the widespread use of the vaccine by those in the developing countries.
While the Western based pharmaceutical companies claim that development of such a vaccine would cost at least $800m or more, said the Meningitis Vaccine Project said that it could meet the target for just $70m, before 2011, inclusive of vaccine development, licensing and commercialization of the vaccine.
The possibility of developing cost-effective vaccines by using novel strategies developed by researchers in the developing nations represents a groundbreaking approach in the competitive area of drug development.