The decision to reject the inclusion of meningitis B jab Bexsero in the UK's childhood immunisation programme is not in the best interest of patients, says its manufacturer Novartis.

Interim guidance from the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has not recommended the vaccine on grounds that it is unlikely to prove cost-effective based on the current method of evaluation in the UK.

But in a statement sent to PharmaTimes, the Swiss drug giant argues that the current way of determining Bexsero's cost-effectiveness "fails to capture fully the lifetime benefits of disease prevention and underestimates the potentially devastating impact of the disease".

Surprisingly, Novartis claims it was not asked for pricing information as part of the JCVI assessment, but stressed that it will "provide related input prior to the recommendation being finalised".

If the JCVI's decision is not changed following a second meeting in October, "meningitis B will remain a threat for children in the UK causing needless death and disability,” the drug giant warns.

Just under 2,000 people contract meningitis B every year. Around and one in 10 will die from the disease, and around a quarter who survive will be left with brain or limb damage.

"Severe blow"

The Meningitis Research Foundation called the decision "a severe blow", particularly as the UK’s child mortality rates remain amongst the highest in Europe. 

"We simply cannot afford to let this licensed vaccine hang in limbo any longer," said its chief executive Chris Head.

But Director of Immunisation, Professor David Salisbury, said important evidence on the vaccine is lacking. 

"We need to know how well it will protect, how long it will protect and if it will stop the bacteria from spreading from person to person. We need to work with the scientific community and the manufacturer to find ways to resolve these uncertainties so that we can come to a clear answer," he noted.