Pfizer has rolled out its new antifungal Ecalta in the UK, following a green light for the treatment of invasive candidiasis from the European Medicines Agency in September.

Ecalta (anidulafungin) is the latest member of the echinocandin class of antifungals medicines, which are designed to prevent the production of glucan in the fungal cell wall, leading to a loss of rigidity and causing the cell wall to breakdown. This mode of action is pretty unique, as the majority of other antifungal classes, such as polyenes or azoles, target the cell membrane instead, the group said.

Approval of the drug was based on data from a pivotal clinical trial which clearly demonstrated its effectiveness in fighting serious Candida infections, which are potentially life-threatening in critical care patients, with successful treatment in 75.6% of patients compared with 60.2% of those given Pfizer’s Diflucan (fluconazole).

The availability of a new weapon against fungal infections such as candidaemia, which has an estimated crude mortality rate of 38%, Pfizer notes, will certainly be welcome news for healthcare professionals. “Invasive candidosis is a serious problem in hospital patients with weakened host defences. Rapid identification of infection and targeting of effective antifungal drugs in the critically ill will improve patient management,” commented Dr Rosemary Barnes, Head of Medical Microbiology, Cardiff University.

Competitively priced
Ecalta is given intravenously as a once-a-day infusion – 200mg on day one, followed by 100mg daily thereafter, and treatment duration should be based on the patient’s clinical response. A spokesperson for Pfizer told PharmaTimes UK News that the National Health Service cost of the drug is £299.99 per 100mg vial, which is cheaper than its main competitors - Merck & Co’s Cancidas (caspofungin) and amphotericin B.

Along with Vfend (voriconazole), introduced in 2002, Ecalta (sold as Eraxis in the USA following its launch there last year) should help Pfizer inject some new life into its antifungal franchise, which was hit by the patent expiry of its one-time market leader Diflucan in 2004.