GSK, Pfizer must lower price of vital vaccine: Medecins sans Frontieres

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 January, 2015, 8:08am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 January, 2015, 8:08am

Two giant pharmaceutical companies should lower the price of a new vaccine against pneumococcal disease that is needed by children in developing countries, but is unaffordable for some of their governments, say the volunteer doctors of Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF).

In a report on vaccine pricing, MSF says British company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and US giant Pfizer should slash the price of the vaccines to US$5 per child in developing countries. The two companies are the sole manufacturers of the vaccine.

The secretive nature of the industry means that prices are not disclosed in all countries, but, where they are known, there is huge variation. Hospitals in Morocco pay nearly US$64 and in Tunisia US$67, whereas the manufacturer's price in France is less - at about US$58.

"We have an irrational situation where some developing countries like Morocco and Tunisia are paying more for the pneumococcal vaccine than France does," said Kate Elder, vaccines policy adviser for MSF's Access Campaign.

"Because of the astronomical cost of new vaccines, many governments are facing tough choices about which deadly diseases they can afford to protect their children against."

MSF says the pneumococcal vaccine is a big contributor to the soaring cost of vaccinating a child in the poorest countries - it accounts for 45 per cent of the total. GSK and Pfizer have collectively reported more than US$19 billion in global sales of the vaccine since it launched.

The full vaccination schedule which every child should receive includes 12 vaccines. Since 2001, the cost of the full package has risen dramatically, says the report, "The Right Shot: bringing down barriers to affordable and adapted vaccines".

"The price to fully vaccinate a child is 68 times more expensive than it was just over a decade ago, mainly because a handful of big pharmaceutical companies are overcharging donors and developing countries for vaccines that already earn them billions of dollars in wealthy countries," said Rohit Malpani, director of policy and analysis for the MSF campaign.