(CTN News) – U.S. officials have approved the first long-acting drug designed to safeguard babies and toddlers from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common respiratory infection that often leads to hospitalization in young children.
The newly approved drug, named Beyfortus and manufactured by AstraZeneca, is a synthetic antibody that enhances the immune system’s ability to combat RSV.
Its approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) addresses the pressing need for effective treatments to reduce the impact of RSV disease on children, families, and the healthcare system. This article provides an overview of Beyfortus, its approval, and its potential impact on RSV prevention.
FDA Approval and Benefits:
Dr. John Farley, a representative from the FDA, expressed the significance of this approval in addressing the growing need for RSV treatment options. While typically a mild inconvenience for healthy individuals, RSV poses a severe risk to infants and the elderly. Last year witnessed a surge in RSV cases, overwhelming hospitals with wheezing children.
No vaccines are available for infants, although pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer are actively developing them. AstraZeneca’s Beyfortus, marketed in the U.S. by Sanofi, received FDA approval for use in infants and children up to 2 years old who face an elevated risk of severe RSV.
The drug provides an extended duration of protection, with a single injection safeguarding infants during their first RSV season, typically lasting around five months. Children up to 2 can receive an additional dose to protect them in subsequent RSV seasons.
Efficiency and Availability:
The FDA’s decision to approve Beyfortus was based on three studies demonstrating a reduction in RSV infection risk ranging from 70% to 75% among infants and children aged 2 and younger.
While AstraZeneca’s drug shares similarities with a previously approved antibody drug, the longer-lasting effect of Beyfortus is expected to improve its utilization.
The existing antibody drug is recommended only for high-risk babies and necessitates monthly injections. Healthcare professionals anticipate that the convenience and enhanced efficacy of Beyfortus will lead to greater uptake and improved protection against RSV.
RSV’s Impact and Vaccination Efforts:
RSV poses a significant healthcare burden in the United States, with approximately 58,000 children under 5 hospitalized for the infection each year, resulting in several hundred fatalities.
Despite previous setbacks in RSV research, significant progress has been made this year with introduction the first RSV vaccines. In May, the FDA approved two RSV vaccines for older adults developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer.
Additionally, Pfizer’s RSV vaccine for pregnant women is awaiting FDA approval, intending to transmit protection to newborns.
The FDA’s approval of AstraZeneca’s Beyfortus represents a crucial advancement in protecting infants and toddlers from the potentially life-threatening effects of RSV.
With its extended duration of protection and convenient administration, Beyfortus offers a promising solution to reduce the impact of RSV on children, families, and the healthcare system.
As the medical community eagerly awaits further guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this significant milestone underscores the progress in RSV prevention and highlights the importance of ongoing research and development efforts in combating this respiratory virus.