News / Health

New Flu Vaccines Offer Extra Protection and More Profits

FILE - An influenza vaccination in Boston, Jan 10, 2013.
FILE - An influenza vaccination in Boston, Jan 10, 2013.
Big drugmakers are seeking a boost from new four-in-one influenza vaccines that will be available for the first time this flu season.
Offering more protection to patients, the new quadrivalent vaccines provide a route to premium pricing that could improve margins and profits in a highly competitive market.
Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca all have products ready to tap the new opportunity, while Novartis is lagging behind its rivals.
Until now, seasonal flu vaccines have only protected against three strains of flu - two strains of influenza A, which usually causes more cases and more severe illness, and one of influenza B, which is less common but also circulates in multiple forms.
The new vaccines include protection against a second strain of influenza B, which experts expect will prevent the vast majority of type B infections.
But extra protection comes at a price. French drugmaker Sanofi, whose Sanofi Pasteur unit is the world's biggest supplier of flu vaccines, with sales of 884 million euros ($1.2 billion) in 2012, says it expects a premium of some 50 percent or more.
It reflects a determination by manufacturers to move up the value chain by developing more innovative and expensive vaccines, following the recent success of novel products such as HPV shots to protect girls against cervical cancer.
Contracts struck with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirm a hefty price jump for the new four-strain flu vaccine, with GSK's quadrivalent Fluarix, for example, costing $12.03 per dose against $8.08 for the standard version, according to the agency's website.
Those price premiums may feed through to higher revenues and accelerated growth in a global flu vaccine market that research group Datamonitor Healthcare estimates at around $3.7 billion a year.
“Over time, more and more shipped vaccine is likely to be switched to quadrivalent, so over a five-year period it could lift revenue growth from the low single digit to the mid-to-high single digit [percentage] range,” said Alistair Campbell, an industry analyst at Berenberg Bank.
Some U.S. doctors see a more rapid take-up, with Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, predicting that only four-strain vaccines will be available within two years.
Price Slide
It should help a business with a patchy profit record.
Although drugmakers benefit when there is a flu pandemic like the 2009/2010 outbreak of H1N1 swine flu - returns from non-pandemic seasonal vaccines have been falling, particularly in Europe.
“Prices have become unsustainably low in Europe,” Jean-Paul Kress, head of Sanofi Pasteur MSD (SPMSD) said in an interview. “The quadrivalent vaccine will help us regain perceived value for flu vaccines, which have become commoditised.”
Kress, whose organization is a joint venture between Sanofi and Merck & Co for marketing vaccines in Europe, said average prices for flu vaccines sold in bulk had fallen to around 3.50 euros per dose from about 6 euros in the past few years in austerity-hit Europe.
Most of the quadrivalent business in 2013/14 will come from the United States, where the CDC expects four-strain vaccines to account for around 23 percent of the 135-139 million doses that manufacturers are likely to make for the country.
Thanks to the U.S. opportunity and innovations such as an intradermal shot injected into skin rather than muscle, Sanofi is on track for a “record” flu vaccine season, its Chief Executive Chris Viehbacher told an investor conference last week.
In Europe, roll out of the new vaccines will be slower as several products - including Sanofi's four-strain Vaxigrip - are still awaiting approval, although GSK's quadrivalent has a green light in Britain, Germany and France.
A competing vaccine that is sprayed into the nose rather than injected, from AstraZeneca's MedImmune unit, is also cleared in the United States but not yet in Europe.
AstraZeneca is taking a different approach to rivals with its FluMist product, which already commands a higher price than injections, by opting to switch entirely to quadrivalent this season. But it has decided to raise the price by around five percent, rather than 50 percent, taking the CDC cost to $17.30 per dose.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs