Pfizer sells key vaccine cheaply to poor countries

July 29, 2013 by Linda A. Johnson

Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has agreed to provide hundreds of millions of doses of its lucrative vaccine against pneumonia and meningitis at a fraction of the usual price for young children in poor countries.

The deal to provide 260 million shots of its Prevnar 13 vaccine for a few dollars each is Pfizer's third agreement under an innovative program through which , governments, health groups and charities collaborate to bring a long-term supply of affordable vaccines against .

Prevnar 13, called Prevenar outside the U.S., protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal disease. The can cause painful common in young children and serious infections that can kill or leave survivors deaf, paralyzed or with permanent learning or speech disabilities. Those diseases include pneumonia, and , an infection of tissue around the brain and spinal cord.

Pneumococcal disease kills more than 1.6 million people annually, half under age 5 and nearly all of them in poor countries, according to the World Health Organization.

One Prevnar dose costs nearly $130 in the U.S.—unaffordable in much of Africa, Asia and Latin America. In fact, most new Western vaccines don't reach poor countries for 10 to 15 years.

To change that, four years ago several countries and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation together donated $1.5 billion to develop a tactic that could provide the needed vaccines. An additional $1.3 billion was pledged by a public-private partnership called GAVI, formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, whose members include UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank.

The money was used to start a pilot program that would guarantee steady, high-volume demand for vaccine makers who agree to sell their vaccines for $3.50 each or less to poor countries. Experts picked pneumococcal vaccines as the first project.

The program also aims to increase vaccine production capacity and encourage companies to develop vaccines for diseases common in the poorest countries. Existing vaccines such as Prevnar must be tweaked to cover disease strains common in poor countries.

Prevnar was launched in Western countries in 2009. Pfizer made the first supply agreement for it under the program in 2010, and a second one in 2011. Those deals, running through 2023, covered 480 million doses.

The alliance has estimated the pneumococcal vaccines could save up to 1.5 million lives by 2020.

"More than 10 million children have been reached with GAVI-supported pneumococcal vaccines in 29 countries since 2010. We expect to reach children in more than 50 countries with this lifesaving vaccine by 2015," Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, said in a statement, adding that the goal is to make the program sustainable in the long term, partly by securing very low vaccine prices.

The latest deal gives Pfizer $3.40 a dose for Prevnar this year, then $3.30 per dose through 2025. For about the first 20 percent of doses, Pfizer gets an extra $3.50, from the $2.8 billion pledged by the charities and wealthy governments.

"Strong vaccination programs are a cornerstone of economic development—a simple intervention that has dramatic short- and long-term impact on health," Susan Silbermann, Pfizer's president of vaccines, said in a statement.

New York-based Pfizer is the world's second-biggest drugmaker, selling medicines including Viagra and pain relievers Lyrica and Celebrex. Prevnar is the top-selling vaccine ever, with annual sales just over $4 billion.

Explore further: European regulators expand Pfizer vaccine approval

Related Stories

European regulators expand Pfizer vaccine approval

July 10, 2013
European regulators have become the first to approve Pfizer Inc.'s Prevenar 13 vaccine for patients at all stages of life by including adults between the ages of 18 and 49.

Drugmakers, health groups bring poor girls vaccine

May 9, 2013
Two multinational drugmakers are teaming up with top global health groups to protect millions of girls in the world's poorest countries from deadly cervical cancer.

India announces low-cost rotavirus vaccine (Update)

May 14, 2013
The Indian government announced Tuesday the development of a new low-cost vaccine proven effective against a diarrhea-causing virus that is one of the leading causes of childhood deaths across the developing world.

Recommended for you

FDA bans use of opioid-containing cough meds by kids

January 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Trying to put a dent in the ongoing opioid addiction crisis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday slapped strict new restrictions on the use of opioid-containing cold and cough products by kids.

Taking ibuprofen for long periods found to alter human testicular physiology

January 9, 2018
A team of researchers from Denmark and France has found that taking regular doses of the pain reliever ibuprofen over a long period of time can lead to a disorder in men called compensated hypogonadism. In their paper published ...

Nearly one-third of Canadians have used opioids: study

January 9, 2018
Nearly one in three Canadians (29 percent) have used "some form of opioids" in the past five years, according to data released Tuesday as widespread fentanyl overdoses continue to kill.

Growing opioid epidemic forcing more children into foster care

January 8, 2018
The opioid epidemic has become so severe it's considered a national public health emergency. Addiction to prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and morphine, has contributed to a dramatic rise in overdose deaths and ...

Price tag on gene therapy for rare form of blindness: $850K

January 3, 2018
A first-of-its kind genetic treatment for blindness will cost $850,000 per patient, making it one of the most expensive medicines in the world and raising questions about the affordability of a coming wave of similar gene-targeting ...

Restasis: Why US consumers paid billions for drug deemed ineffective in other countries

January 2, 2018
Why are Americans, both as patients and taxpayers, paying billions of dollars for a drug whose efficacy is so questionable that it's not approved in the European Union, Australia or New Zealand? Restasis, a blockbuster drug ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.