- Merck & Co. is making more measles vaccines to serve a growing demand in the U.S., where a series of outbreaks have spurred a decades-high number of measles cases.
- First reported by Reuters, the move should maintain availability and provide a greater stateside supply of Merck's measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, called MMR-II. While noticeably larger, the demand for the vaccine "hasn’t been outstripping our underlying capacity," Mike Nally, Merck's chief marketing officer, told Reuters.
- The big pharma also said its distribution network hasn't experienced significant change in wake of the measles outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, from Jan. 1 through April 26, 704 individual cases of the virus have been confirmed across 22 states. The number hasn't been that high since 1994, six years before measles was declared eliminated in the U.S.
Outbreaks in New York, California and several other states have put a renewed focus on measles — and more vocal criticism of vaccine opponents, often called "anti-vaxers," who many say are fueling the disease's resurgence in the U.S.
Measles is preventable through vaccination, demonstrated by the very few cases reported each year in countries where measles vaccines are readily available.
In the U.S., annual measles cases have ranged from 55 to 220 for most years since 2010. The couple years where cases were particularly high had outbreaks in areas with poor vaccination coverage. Of the 667 cases reported in 2014, around 383 were from unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio.
"We are always concerned when anyone becomes infected with a vaccine-preventable disease," Merck said in an email to BioPharma Dive.
"The efficacy and safety of MMR-II has been well established — over decades of use in hundreds of millions of people," the company added. "The current outbreak reinforces the importance of sustaining high enough coverage rates in communities to help prevent measles outbreaks."
Merck is the only measles vaccine supplier in the U.S. and doesn't disclose the manufacturing capacity for its MMR-II vaccine.
Revenue from MMR-II is also wrapped in with the company's other pediatric vaccines, which include Varivax for chickenpox and Proquad for measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox. First quarter sales from those three products totaled $496 million, a 27% increase year over year.