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Study Discovers New Way to Prevent Pneumonia in the Elderly

By Ransdell Pierson and Caroline Humer

Pfizer Inc said that Prevnar 13, its blockbuster vaccine against childhood infections, prevented pneumonia outside of hospitals in people age 65 and older, in one of the largest drug trials ever conducted.

The 85,000-patient study, called CAPiTA, also showed that Prevnar 13 prevented invasive pneumococcal disease, meaning infections of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria in the bloodstream and other normally sterile sites in the body.

An estimated 300,000 adults aged 50 and older are hospitalized every year because of pneumococcal pneumonia, a substantial cause of illness and death, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

During the trial, Prevnar 13 met its primary goal of preventing a first episode of community-acquired pneumonia. It also met a secondary goal of preventing a first episode of invasive bloodstream infections, which are typically far more severe than pneumonia without such bloodstream involvement.

The FDA in early 2010 approved Prevnar 13, to protect children against additional strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that cause an array of diseases, including pneumonia, ear infections and meningitis.

But the U.S. health regulator in late 2011 widened the approved use of Prevnar 13 to include adults age 50 and older, to prevent pneumonia and invasive infections. The approval was conditioned, however, on success of the now-completed CAPiTA study.

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