January 22, 2013 / 7:00 AM / 8 years ago

Novartis wins EU backing for first meningitis B vaccine

An employee smokes a cigarette beside the logo of Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG in front of a plant in Basel October 25, 2011. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Novartis clinched European approval for the first vaccine against meningitis B, and will seek to sell the drug as soon as possible.

“Novartis is working with health authorities to provide access to Bexsero as soon as possible,” the Swiss drugmaker said in a statement on Tuesday.

There is currently no approved vaccine offering broad protection against “MenB,” this particular type of meningitis.

Novartis won a European panel backing for Bexsero in November.

Bexsero’s commercial success still depends on whether individual governments decide to add it to routine vaccination programs.

MenB is caused by bacteria, leading to inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. It can kill within 24 hours and infants are at highest risk.

Around 10 percent of those who contract the disease die, despite appropriate treatment, and up to 20 percent of survivors suffer from serious disabilities such as brain damage and hearing impairment.

Reporting By Katharina Bart; Editing by David Cowell

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