Indiana is buying 5,000 doses of Md. firm's nasal flu vaccine

Shortage of injection drug is boon for FluMist

December 13, 2003|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

Indiana is buying 5,000 doses of MedImmune Inc.'s FluMist nasal-spray vaccine for influenza to make up for shortages of flu shots, state health officials said yesterday.

The flu season began early this year, and at least 20 illness-related deaths among children led the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials to recommend vaccinations for most people.

Indiana is expecting to get another 4,450 doses of flu shots this week from the federal government. The state will pay $20 a dose for MedImmune's vaccine, or a total of $100,000, and plans to give it at no cost to healthy people ages 5 to 49, said Andrew Zirkle, a health department spokesman.

"There's a shortage of the regular vaccine, and there's a little more supply of FluMist right now," Zirkle said in an interview. "We're just trying to get as much vaccine into Indiana as possible."

FluMist, approved this year, usually costs patients $60 to $80 a dose. MedImmune had charged doctors' offices and pharmacies $46 a dose for FluMist at the beginning of the season.

The high price has stalled demand for the vaccine. Last week, the Gaithersburg company said that as of mid-November it had shipped only 400,000 of the 4 million to 5 million doses it had produced.

Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp., the second- and third-biggest health insurers, respectively, said Thursday that they would cover FluMist. UnitedHealth Group Inc., the No. 1 U.S. health insurer, has covered FluMist since the Food and Drug Administration approved it earlier in the year.

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