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.
Reuters
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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs