FDA advisors give a thumbs-up to GlaxoSmithKline's shingles vaccine

GlaxoSmithKline’s shingles Shingrix vaccine received an unanimous vote of support by a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee Wednesday on safety and effectiveness to be used in adults 50 and older.

A decision by the FDA to commercialize Shingrix is expected later this year. The agency usually follows the recommendations of its advisory panels.

GSK said in June that the vaccine produced a strong immune response in adults 65 and older who had previously been vaccinated against shingles with Merck’s vaccine, Zostavax. Scientific data published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the effectiveness of Merck’s vaccine wanes over time, while GSK’s vaccine appeared to have longer-lasting protection.

GSK said data show that people who received Merck’s vaccine, the only one approved now for the herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine, can later receive the Shingrix vaccine safely and effectively.

“The risk of developing shingles increases with age and it is estimated that up to one in three people in the United States will develop shingles,” said Emmanuel Hanon, GSK head of vaccines research and development. “Today’s vote brings us one step closer to approval of Shingrix, which is specifically designed to overcome age-related weakening of the immune system.”

People who live to 85 have a 50-50 chance of developing shingles, which can result in a complication called postherpetic neuralgia, a debilitating nerve pain. Shingles typically shows up as a rash with painful blisters on the chest, abdomen, or face.

GSK employs about 5,000 in the Philadelphia area, at the Navy Yard and in Upper Merion and Upper Providence in Montgomery County.