WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — Since the development of the first smallpox vaccine in 1796, vaccines have saved countless lives around the world and helped to make such deadly scourges as smallpox and polio things of the past.
(THE NEWS: PhRMA report lists almost 300 vaccines under development. For the full story, click here.)
In addition to helping the practice of medicine evolve, they also have sparked an evolution in the roles of pharmacy and pharmacists in the United States. Today, pharmacists in all 50 states administer flu vaccinations, not to mention pharmacist-administered vaccinations for shingles and diseases that travelers can contract in other countries. What once required a doctor's appointment now is as simple as walking into a store.
But just as vaccines for common infectious diseases have brought what used to be a physicians-only service to community pharmacy, many of the new vaccines under development could do the same with regard to specialty pharmacy, including therapeutic vaccines against cancers and serious infectious diseases, such as HIV.
Obviously, these aren't the kinds of vaccines one can simply get at the drug store, but specialty pharmacies — particularly those that operate community pharmacies, infusion centers or home-infusion services — could be in a position to deliver them.