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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More