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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.