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GSK and Merck cut vaccine prices

Published on 06/06/11 at 11:39am

GlaxoSmithKline and Merck & Co have pledged to offer their rotavirus vaccines at discounted prices to developing countries.

GSK is to sell Rotarix at $2.50 a dose, while Merck will sell RotaTeq for $5 per dose via GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations), the organisation which raises money to vaccinate at-risk children.

Bill and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which is a founding partner of the Alliance, said they were “particularly excited” about the offer around rotavirus, an illness which causes severe diarrhoea.

That more than 500,000 children die each year from a preventable disease “is what drew us to work in global health in the first place”, they said in a statement.

Writing in The Times, GSK chief executive Andrew Witty said the pharma industry must be “in step with society”.

“I hope this will enable millions of children to receive this vaccine,” he wrote. “Importantly, this offer is sustainable, because we are recouping the cost of goods and manufacture.”

Merck said the RotaTeq price will be cut to $3.50 once 30 million doses are purchased. “Long term purchase commitments help accelerate the future availability of vaccines,” explained Julie Gerberding, president of Merck Vaccines.

“Confirming volumes to be purchased will enable further price reductions as manufacturers expand production and lower costs in the future allowing for greater access,” she added.

Merck is also making human papillomavirus treatment Gardasil available to the GAVI Alliance at $5 per dose.

Meanwhile, India-based firms Serum Institute and Panacea Biotec have committed to price reductions on their pentavalent vaccines, which protect against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type b.

Development secretary Andrew Mitchell said British contributions to GAVI would also be raised, ahead of an international pledging conference for the Alliance to be held in London next week.

The idea is that corporate and government donations will help raise  $3.7 billion to help vaccinate 250 million children over the next four years in a bid to save four million lives.

Adam Hill

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