E-DRUG: GSK to cut vaccine price after �profiteering� claim
By Andrew Jack
Published: November 18 2010 20:21 | Last updated: November 18 2010 20:21
GlaxoSmithKline is to discount significantly its pneumonia vaccine for private
customers in Africa after claims from a medical charity it is �profiteering� by
charging western prices.
The UK pharmaceutical group is reviewing its price after attacks from M�decins
sans Fronti�res (MSF) that it is promoting its Synflorix pneumococcal vaccine
to Ugandans willing to pay $50 per dose from their own pockets.
The $50 price offered since its launch in Africa this month contrasts with
$7 per dose it will charge governments in poor countries for use in public
sector clinics through a donor-supported programme set to begin in December.
It contradicts a commitment made earlier this year by Andrew Witty, GSK�s chief
executive, to introduce discounted or �tiered pricing� to ensure its products
are made widely available to the world�s poor.
The spat highlights tensions that are likely to grow as drug companies
including GSK stress their commitment to providing drugs and vaccines
affordably to the poor while still trying to generate profit from customers
able to pay more.
Mr Witty has advocated a sharp increase in the amount of tiered pricing between
countries while also experimenting with discounts internally, so drugs are sold
cheaply to the poorest and at higher prices to the growing middle classes.
Uganda has yet to seek funding from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and
Immunisation, the UN-backed body that is channelling donor funding to buy
pneumococcal vaccines at a deeply discounted price of just $7 a dose.
Daniel Berman, deputy head of the access campaign at MSF, said GSK should
provide its single dose Synflorix product at $7.
The product has already been authorised in Uganda for sale to the private
sector at $50.
He said it was �a bit unethical� for the company to be involved in campaigns in
Uganda alongside public health officials to promote its sale at a higher price.
GSK said that it would reduce its prices in Uganda now that MSF had pointed out
they were at European levels, in contradiction with its own tiered pricing
However, it denied it was �front-loading� the private market in Uganda, which
it said was �minuscule�.
It stressed its commitment to �ensuring African babies get the vaccine as
quickly as possible�.
GSK supported World Pneumonia Day events in Uganda, including funding for
immunisation cards which include a space for pneumococcal vaccination, although
it may not be available in public clinics before 2012.
M�decins Sans Fronti�res- Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines
+41 22 849 89 88 (Direct Line)