A Q&A with Marc Ost, co-owner of Eric’s RX Shoppe, which was one of the first community pharmacies to receive the new vaccine.
The FDA approved GSK’s Arexvy on May 3, 2023, making it the first vaccine to prevent lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in adults aged 60 and older. The approval, which was based on the landmark phase 3 AReSVi-006 clinical trial (NCT04886596), allows older adults to be protected from the virus for the first time.
“Today marks a turning point in our effort to reduce the significant burden of RSV,” Tony Wood, Chief Scientific Officer at GSK, said in a release at the time of the approval.1 “Arexvy is the first approved RSV vaccine for older adults, expanding GSK’s industry-leading vaccine portfolio, which protects millions of people from infectious diseases each year. Our focus now is to ensure eligible older adults in the US can access the vaccine as quickly as possible and to progress regulatory review in other countries.”
Drug Topics spoke with Marc Ost, co-owner of Eric’s RX Shoppe, about the new RSV vaccine. The community pharmacy, which is located in Horsham, Pennsylvania, was one of the first to receive and administer the vaccine.
Drug Topics: Can you discuss the significance of this vaccine being the first approved by the FDA to prevent lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in older adults?
Marc Ost: I think the biggest thing this vaccine does is provide a solution for people that are at risk for RSV. Right now, it’s just for the older population, but our hope eventually is that people will be able to get it while they're pregnant to protect their newborns. It’s a preventative measure that hopefully enough people will take that will help them treat a disease that really doesn't have much treatment available.
Drug Topics: RSV is well known among health care providers, but it hasn’t really been common knowledge among the public, what should people know about it?
Marc Ost: For me personally, I always associated it with kids. My son had RSV when he was less than a year old, and it's scary. It's something that there's not really treatment for. In our pharmacy, we deal with a lot of the long-term care population, you hear about RSV and it just spreads very quickly. It's dangerous how quick it spreads. For someone healthy, middle aged, it's a common cold. But for someone that's at risk or has comorbidities, it could be a lot more serious…for those that are at risk, we want to do everything we can to help them fight the virus if they contract it.
Drug Topics: How much does the RSV vaccine cost and is it covered by insurance?
Marc Ost: The cost is about $300 to $315, including the administration. We're working with GSK, we're working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, we're working with all the parties to get the vaccine covered. Because it's so new, insurance companies take a little bit to put it on the formulary and add it. It is an ACIP recommended vaccine. Under the inflation reduction Act, Medicare Part D is mandated to cover it.
Our policy right now is anybody who has Medicare Part D we're contracted with, we'll give them a vaccine at no cost, then we'll figure out reimbursement once it's covered. We don't know about commercial insurers, whether they will or won't cover it or allow pharmacies to. It’s just a wait and see process.
Drug Topics: Vaccine hesitancy has become a big topic. What would you tell a patient who maybe is hesitant about getting the new RSV vaccine?
Marc Ost: Have a discussion with your healthcare provider. It’s always a risk or benefit discussion. You really want to look at who the vaccine is approved for. “Why should I get it?” That's a question that you should ask, and healthcare providers or pharmacists should have an answer. They should be able to tell you, “This is why I recommend you getting it.”
I think one of the big reasons for vaccine hesitancy that has come up in the last few years has been the COVID-19 vaccine. A lot of people got the COVID vaccine, and then they got covid, not realizing that the vaccine wasn't designed to stop you from testing positive. The vaccine was designed to stop you from going to the hospital or dying. So, I think having that understanding and having clear information makes a big difference. And also increased trust between the patient, the healthcare provider, and the technology or vaccine.
Drug Topics: Is there anything else important about the RSV vaccine that you wanted to discuss?
Marc Ost: I think that what you're going to find, similar to other vaccines, is that pharmacies will probably be the best point to get this vaccine. It's expensive and what we're seeing is a lot of providers’ offices don't want to stock the vaccine. They don't want money sitting in the fridge. As pharmacies, especially community pharmacies, we're very nimble. We will make it as accommodating to patients as we can. We’ll hold clinics at churches, synagogues, businesses. We’re also doing a lot of clinics at long-term care centers.
At community pharmacies, we know our patients. There’s a trust factor. My business partner, Eric, one of the biggest things that we've seen with the COVID vaccine, and even with this vaccine, is “Did you get it? Would you give it to your mom?” And that's a question that they'll always ask him. Because he has trust in the community, because he's been around and has taken care of patients and built those relationships, there's a level of trust. They take what he says seriously and it means something. It's not just the pharmacist giving it, it's someone they know and trust.