Charity urges drug firms to reduce price of pneumonia vaccine

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 13 November 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6131
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. 1London

The charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has launched a global campaign urging drug companies GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Pfizer to reduce the price of the pneumonia vaccine for developing countries. The organisation launched its global petition on world pneumonia day, 12 November.

Earlier this year the charity published a report showing that the cost of fully immunising a child had increased 68 times between 2001 and 2014, while over the same period the number of vaccines in the full childhood vaccination schedule increased from six to 12.1

Manica Balasegaram, executive director of MSF’s Access Campaign, said that the pneumonia vaccine was the world’s bestselling vaccine, with Pfizer recording more than $4.4bn (£2.9bn; €4.09bn) in sales in 2014.

“GSK and Pfizer charge such high prices for the pneumonia vaccine that many governments and humanitarian organisations aren’t able to vaccinate children,” she said in a statement. “After combined sales to date of more than $28bn for the pneumonia vaccine alone, we think it’s pretty safe to say that GSK and Pfizer can afford to lower the price so all developing countries can protect their children from this childhood killer.”

MSF said that the cheapest price for the pneumonia vaccine was around $10 for all three doses, available to the world’s poorest countries through Gavi, the global vaccine alliance. But middle income countries, which were not eligible for support from Gavi, missed out on this lower price. Countries currently not immunising their children include Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

MSF blamed the high price of childhood vaccines on a “duopoly” that existed in the market, with just two companies producing the vaccines. The charity said that a manufacturer in India was currently developing a vaccine costing $5 for three doses but that this was unlikely to be available before 2019.

Pfizer said that it was due to reduce the price of Prevenar 13, its pneumonia vaccine, to $3.10 a dose in 2016, adding that its current price of $3.30 a dose through Gavi was 90% lower than its price in industrialised countries.

In a statement the company said, “We employ a tiered pricing policy that allows us to provide lower prices to the most resource limited countries while relying on other countries whose economic standing enables them to pay more to do so.”

Pneumonia is the leading infectious cause of death in children worldwide, accounting for 15% of all deaths of children under the age of 5, World Health Organization figures have shown. An estimated 935 000 children died from pneumonia in 2013.


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6131


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