FDA approves Prevnar for adults over 50

On December 30, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the approval of Prevnar 13, Pfizer's pneumococcal vaccine, for use in adults aged 50 and older.
The vaccine protects against 13 different strains of pneumococcal bacteria, including the most common type of pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumonia. Pneumococci can also cause otitis and meningitis. The vaccine does not protect against viral pneumonia, the Examiner reports.
Before the FDA approval, many adults over the age of 65 received Merck & Co.'s Pneumovax vaccine. Prevnar 13 was approved on an accelerated time frame. As part of the approval, Pfizer must continue to study the vaccine's effectiveness in adults. The vaccine has also been approved for the same age group in the European Union, Australia, Mexico and 10 other nations. The vaccine received approval for infants and young children in 2000.
Prevnar is one of the company's top selling products with $3.7 billion in sales in 2010 alone, according to the Examiner.
According to Pfizer, there are more than 440,000 cases of pneumococcal pneumonia each year among adults 50 years and older in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50,000 adults in the United States die of pneumonia annually. While pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, bacterial pneumonia tends to be the most serious, according to the UCLA Health System.