Treatment May Prevent Wheezing in Pre-Term Babies
But preventing respiratory synctial virus comes with a hefty price tag
The study also found that 21 percent of the babies who received no treatment had recurrent wheezing, compared to 11 percent in those receiving palivizumab. The number of infants who needed medication to treat their wheezing was also less in the palivizumab group, according to the study.
Other than redness and swelling at the injection site, the drug is very well tolerated, Bont said.
The reduction in wheezing comes at a price, however. A season's treatment would likely reach about $10,000 in the United States, Bont said, adding that cost varies from country to country. A child's weight, which determines dosage, also affects the cost of treatment.
"Society needs to define whether its cost-effectiveness is acceptable," Bont said. He said palivizumab should be a standard preventive treatment for premature infants during RSV season.
Lemanske agreed that this is a very expensive intervention. "But if wheezing episodes in pre-term infants are associated with significant [illnesses], then preventing RSV could translate into dollars and cents too," he said. "Whether this will reduce disease risk down the road remains to be seen."