GSK pledges to drop vax price for refugees
- GlaxoSmithKline will discount the price of its pneumococcal vaccine to $3.05 per dose for charities which work to immunize refugees and displaced people. The price reduction for Synflorix is the first step in a broader pledge to supply essential vaccines to civil society organizations at lower prices.
- The British drugmaker had pledged earlier this year to provide Synflorix to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance for the same $3.05 price per dose, which the company said would save $1 per child over the course of the vaccine.
- Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has for years sharply criticized both GSK and Pfizer for keeping vaccine prices high, applauded the new, broader commitment as a "positive and critical step." The humanitarian organization did, however, call on GSK to lower its vaccine prices in sales to governments of developing countries, in addition to aid groups.
Refugee camps can be hotbeds of disease, with vulnerable people from different regions crowded together and poor access to food, clean water and good sanitation. In situations like this, preventive medicine, such as vaccines, is essential to stop the spread of infection.
GSK will supply its discounted vaccines, starting with Synflorix, to aid groups working in crisis areas, such as in Syria and South Sudan. While the deep discounts will initially apply only to Synflorix, the drugmaker said it would "explore" expanding the offer to other so-called essential vaccines in the future.
Vaccines are a substantial part of GSK's business, particularly after an asset swap with Novartis in 2014 traded its oncology unit for the Swiss drugmaker's vaccine portfolio (except for influenza).
Accounting for the addition of Novartis' drugs, sales of vaccines accounted for £3.6 billion in revenue for GSK last year. Synflorix is one of the company's best-selling vaccines, pulling in £381 million last year.
GSK has already discounted a number of its vaccines to specific partners such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. In countries eligible for Gavi support, GSK supplies vaccines against rotavirus, pneumococcal disease and herpes simplex at reduced prices. Through Gavi, the drugmaker has committed to deliver 720 million doses of Synflorix through 2024.
MSF, while supportive of the most recent move, used GSK's announcement as an opportunity to further attack Pfizer's pricing.
"GSK is leading the way in this commitment to children who are experiencing the most horrific of circumstances, while Pfizer continues to hide behind excuses and offer only piecemeal approaches to the humanitarian community," said Vickie Hawkins, executive director of MSF-UK.
GSK is also expanding its efforts to fight microbial resistance. Yesterday, GSK and 12 other leading pharma companies presented the UN with a roadmap for approaches to tackle what has become a pressing global challenge.
Follow Suzanne Elvidge on Twitter