Drug firms cut vaccine prices for developing countries


Vaccines will be sold at a price that covers the drugmakers’ costs

Several drugs companies are to cut the prices of their vaccines in the developing world.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Merck and Sanofi have agreed to cut prices through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), set up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

UK-based drugmaker GSK has offered to supply up to 125 million doses of its Rotarix vaccine over five years to developing countries at US$2.50 (£1.50), which is approximately 95% less than the Western market price.

The vaccine will be subsidised by higher prices being charged in richer countries. For example, it will cost around $50 a dose in the US.

Rotavirus-related diarrhoea kills more than 500,000 children a year.

‘GSK is committed to playing its part in addressing the healthcare challenges faced by world’s poorest countries,’ said Andrew Witty, chief executive of GSK.

‘By working in partnership with others including governments, international agencies, NGOs and developing countries, we can find innovative ways to accelerate access to vaccines that are urgently needed by children living in these countries.’

This new commitment for Rotarix follows GSK’s pledge in March 2010 to supply its pneumococcal vaccine, Synflorix, to GAVI at a heavily discounted price.

GAVI helps to fund mass vaccination programmes in developing countries. It is committed to funding the introduction of rotavirus vaccinations in 40% of the poorest countries by 2015, but faces a $3.7bn funding shortfall and has been appealing for price cuts and donations. It will be holding a pledging conference in London on 13 June.

Merck said it would provide its own rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq, for $5 a dose, a 67% price reduction on the current price, which will come down to $3.50 once more than 30 million doses have been sold.

Indian firm Bharat Biotech, the Serum Institute and Shantha Biotechnics, a subsidiary of French drugmaker Sanofi, are developing rotavirus vaccines for GAVI-eligible countries.

Bharat Biotech said it could supply India\'s first indigenously developed diarrhoea vaccine to GAVI at a cut price of $3.

The firm’s rotovac is currently in Phase III clinical trials and will be commercialised by 2015 after being granted the required licence.

Vaccination against rotavirus has so far been successfully introduced in four GAVI eligible countries: Nicaragua, Honduras, Bolivia and Guyana.