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[e-drug] GSK to cut vaccine price after ?profiteering? claim

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.

Alexandra Lee
M�decins Sans Fronti�res- Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines
+41 22 849 89 88 (Direct Line)
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