Novartis announced that the European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) has issued a positive opinion for Aflunov®, an investigational pre-pandemic avian influenza vaccine. The CHMP is endorsing the approval of Aflunov for active immunization against H5N1 subtype of Influenza A virus in adults 18 years of age and older. H5N1 (commonly referred to as avian or bird flu) accounts for most avian influenza outbreaks globally and is a serious health concern given its potential to evolve into a deadly pandemic strain at any time.
The CHMP recommendation serves as the basis for a European Commission licensing Decision. Based on the CHMP recommendation, a marketing authorization for Aflunov could be granted in all the European Union and EEA countries. The marketing authorization is expected to be granted before year-end.
“Upon approval, we expect Aflunov to be an important addition to our portfolio of pandemic preparedness solutions,” said Andrin Oswald, Head of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Division. “The onset of a pandemic can be very rapid, leaving little or no time to prepare. Vaccinating in advance may prevent the potential devastation of a pandemic outbreak.”
H5N1 is presently the virus of greatest concern among all avian influenza viruses. H5N1 is currently circulating in birds, poultry and many other animal species around the world and has already infected humans that have been in contact with infected animals,. While human infections are continuing to rise, ability of the virus to spread from human to human has not been demonstrated yet. To date, there have been more than 500 cases of serious illness and more than 300 deaths. H5N1 morbidity and mortality rates remain significantly higher than those associated with seasonal influenza and any recent pandemic,,. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), H5N1 has met all prerequisites for starting a pandemic except for the ability to spread efficiently and sustainably among humans.
Vaccines are considered the first line of defense against pandemic influenza. Transmission of influenza virus during a pandemic can be rapid, leaving little or no time to prepare. Thus, proactive pre-pandemic vaccination to prime populations at risk or vaccine stockpiling may be a more adequate way to help protect those at risk of H5N1 infection, those who would form the first line of response during a potential pandemic, such as healthcare and emergency workers, and those critical to maintaining business and economic continuity.
In clinical trials, two doses of Aflunov demonstrated antibody titers considered protective in more than 85% of vaccinated individuals (homologous seroprotection rate). Aflunov was also shown to elicit cross-reactive antibodies against many of the H5 strains that have caused human disease. Additionally, a single vaccination with Aflunov (H5N1, A/Vietnam/1194/2004) induced high and rapid serological response in subjects primed 6-8 years previously with two doses of a different surrogate H5 vaccine, having same formulation and including the same MF59 adjuvant as Aflunov but using the strain H5N3.
The EU regulatory filing for Aflunov will form the basis for further filings in other parts of the world including Asia, where H5N1 has been reported in many countries.