The Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee approved licensure for Heplisav-B, a new two-dose recombinant hepatitis B vaccination, after voting that presented data proved the vaccine to be safe for adults 18 and over.

At an advisory meeting, after hearing testimony from government researchers and representatives of Dynavax Technologies Corporation, the manufacturer of Heplisav-B, 11 members voted to approve the drug, 1 member voted no, and 3 abstained.

There are more than 20,000 new infections each year, with a reported increase of 21% between 2014 and 2015, according to research presented by William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventative medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

There are two approved immunizations for hepatitis B: Engerix-B, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, and Recombivax HB, by Merck. Both are three-dose, recombinant vaccines produced from yeast cells.

Like the current vaccines, Heplisav-B is a recombinant hepatitis B surface antigen that is derived from yeast; however, this vaccine would be administered in two doses over 1 month, as opposed to three doses over 6 months as is the schedule for currently approved vaccines. Both manufacturing representatives and approving members of the committee stressed this as an important factor due to vaccination dropout rates.

“We have a problem with hepatitis B infections in this country as well as problems with the current vaccines,“ said John Ward, MD, director of the division of viral hepatitis at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “and they happen in these populations where, in terms of data, both of those audiences have problems about going for the second and third dose.”

Patients that drop out before the third dose are at high risk of infection, as only 20%-50% of adults have the appropriate seroprotection after two doses. However, only 54% of patients in a vaccine safety Datalink study reported completing the vaccination series, with 81% reporting having received two doses, according to Dr. Schaffner.

While the committee did approve the safety research as sufficient to approve use of Heplisav-B in adults 18 years and older, members of the committee had an issue with the drug’s correlation with myocardial infarction.

In one of the studies presented, Heplisav-B’s acute myocardial infarction (AMI) events (14 patients) greatly outnumbered those of Engerix-B (1 patient), presenting an AMI relative risk of 6.97.

Dynavax representatives, in response to this concern, presented intention to conduct a postmarketing analysis of the risk of MI in patients who have been administered Heplisav-B, which committee members considered to be a crucial contingency for approval.

“I would like to say I am for the approval of this vaccine, I just think as a statistician that the safety was inconclusive,” said Mei-Ling Ting Lee, PhD, director of the Biostatistics and Risk Assessment Center at the University of Maryland. “But I think for the pharmacological vigilance plan, I think that it will be good to have specific analysis for the myocardial infarction and other risks.”

With approval from the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, Heplisav-B will be subject to review by the FDA, after which it will seek a recommendation from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices during its October 2017 meeting.

Dynavax intends to introduce the vaccine commercially in the United States by the middle of 2018, according to a press release .

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