From today, infants born after February 6, 2023 are eligible for Beyfortus, a preventive treatment for bronchiolitis. A treatment which aims to both protect young people and relieve emergency services. What is it and should we trust it? Different pediatricians answer us.
It is injected like a vaccine, and promises to protect your infant from bronchiolitis throughout the upcoming epidemic period. Since September 15, Beyfortus designed by the pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, a preventive treatment aimed at immunizing infants against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is open to children born after February 6, 2023. According to some, it is a revolution in the care and in emergency corridors.
What is Beyfortus and why is it so eagerly awaited?
Beyfortus is therefore a monoclonal antibody offered in a single injection. It is not a vaccine, but a prophylactic, that is to say preventive, treatment against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the main cause of bronchiolitis, which affects many infants each year. .
“It is estimated that bronchiolitis affects nearly 30% of infants under 2 years old each winter, or around 480,000 cases. Each year, 2 to 3% of infants under 1 year old are hospitalized for more severe bronchiolitis” announces the National Medicines Safety Agency. However, last season, two years post-Covid, the bronchiolitis epidemic was the most intense known in more than 10 years, with tens of thousands of babies hospitalized and emergency services placed under pressure in the months of ‘summer.
Until now, there was no preventive treatment except Synagis, developed by Astra Zeneca, injected every month for 5 months into the most fragile babies. With Beyfortus, in a single injection for all infants born since last February, it is the total epidemic that we wish to avoid. For the Minister of Health, Aurélien Rousseau, this decision is “a major advance for the health of infants”.
Mostly enthusiastic pediatricians
As for the pediatricians contacted, the “vaccination” campaign (even if it is not really a vaccine) is an excellent thing for the health of their little patients.
For Dr Sylvain Duchène, pediatrician and member of Afpa (French Association of Ambulatory Pediatrics), the treatment comes at the right time: “I have a very positive opinion on this injection, because we are coming out of two years with a considerable increase in bronchiolitis, a very widespread disease, which caused more than 75,000 emergency consultations last year alone. For prevention to avoid disasters, and the movement of infants 300 km from their family, this was important. Of course, we can pretend that this only affects RSV, but it is the most severe virus and causes 80% of bronchiolitis. We will have to measure in the coming years whether this has a real impact, but to date, it is a very favorable option to protect families”.
Same enthusiasm from Dr Christophe Batard pediatrician in Vincennes, “If we look at the current studies, the first results are very encouraging, whether on premature babies as well as all babies. The treatment provides protection for 5-6 months, with an 80% reduction in serious cases. It should change the lives of families, doctors and even emergency departments… We are expecting a big revolution.”
Don’t bet everything on a single treatment though
However, only seeing through this timely treatment would not be the solution, according to other sources. Thus, for the High Authority of Health, the solution launched today only represents “minor” progress in terms of “medical service provided” in the long term: “Limited by their size, Sanofi’s studies do not have a level of proof that allows us to know what will happen in Europe in winter” she declares.
A reservation shared by Dr Jean-Louis Charbernaud, pediatrician-resuscitator, member of the national pediatric council. “This product has real interest in its unique take and because it is aimed at all parents worried about their infant, but it is not certain that this will change much this year, because it is not not sure that everyone will be able to receive it, the campaign is still starting a little late”.
In addition, the doctor questions the impact and place of this campaign in the organization and prevention of the future epidemic:
“We have the impression that politicians are saying ‘nice, we have a medicine, and therefore the solution’. But in fact, it is also a question of continuing prevention measures and informing families, but also of prepare to open additional beds if necessary. Because in the end, we do not know 100% of the results of this treatment: this is the first year of use, the studies have been limited to certain populations while we are going to facing hundreds of thousands of babies, and hospital services are already overwhelmed, even before the epidemic begins. I am in favor of finding preventive treatments of course, but I say be careful, let’s not lose sight of the reality: we will have to be ready to open beds, and have additional staff available, if the situation requires it!”