For the second time in two years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is clashing with drug-maker MedImmune over the recommended use of their Synagis drug, according to a CBS news report. Synagis protects against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (known as RSV), a condition that infects nearly all U.S. children, most mildly, and is the most common cause of pneumonia in infants, with as many as 125,000 children hospitalized annually according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The drug was approved in 1998 for use in high-risk children, based on research showing benefits for certain children, including premature infants born at 35 weeks or earlier. The medicine is given in a series of injections, and is a costly treatment.
The AAP has recommended scaling back on the use of the medicine, saying that medical evidence shows that the drug benefits very few children other than very young preemies, and adds that advances in treatments for premature babies often makes Synagis unnecessary. In the new guidelines, they recommend it only for infants born before 29 weeks, older preemies with chronic lung disease and those with specific heart problems, and certain other at-risk kids younger than 2-years-old.
MedImmune is fighting back with full-page newspaper ads saying that this updated policy “threatens the most vulnerable babies.” The company has also recruited parents to help tout the drug. Company spokesperson Alisha Martin says the full page ads were placed in The New York Times and other newspapers.
“We felt it was important to inform parents — including the women who give birth prematurely every year — of decisions being made that could impact the lives of their children,” says Martin.
Melony Sorbero, a senior Rand Corporation researcher, has studied RSV and believes that the AAP’s narrowed recommendation makes sense based on scientific evidence of limited benefits. But many parents worry that their insurers may deny coverage based on the new recommendations. Insurance industry executives say that insurers do consider medical groups’ input, but that it is too soon to determine if the AAP’s new guidelines will have any effect on coverage decisions.