FluMist Was Scarcely Used

Published Online: Thursday, April 1, 2004

Despite limited amounts of the influenza vaccine leading to nationwide concern and long waits at health clinics at the peak of the flu season, 80% of FluMist (MedImmune Inc), a new nasal spray vaccine, went unsold and will most likely have to be destroyed, a representative of the manufacturer reported recently to a federal panel. FluMist is made from live but weakened influenza viruses and received FDA approval in June 2003 for healthy individuals aged 5 to 49. Peter A. Patriarca, MD, an official of MedImmune Inc, said, however, that only 1 million of the 5 million doses made had been sold.

Statistics indicated that pharmaceutical companies prepared 87 million doses of influenza vaccine in all for use in the United States this flu season, 8 million fewer than for the 2002-2003 season, when manufacturers' officials reported that they had to destroy 12 million doses for lack of demand.

When there was concern over the national shortage of the standard vaccine, due in part to the fact that the flu season began in October 2003, Dr. Patriarca said that MedImmune offered 250,000 doses of FluMist free to states through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State health departments, however, asked for only 40,000 doses, a spokesman for the agency said.

Lack of consumer demand for Flu- Mist has been attributed to a number of factors, according to Dr. Patriarca, including the following:

  • There was a misperception that the vaccine causes influenza
  • FluMist is more costly than the standard vaccines
  • Doctors charged their patients up to $150 for FluMist, so MedImmune began a rebate program, but it made no difference

The FluMist manufacturer plans to ask the FDA to widen approval for the vaccine to include children younger than 5 years and adults aged 50 to 64 years.

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