Vaccine Markets A Refuge for Big Pharma

Drug Discovery & Development

January 13, 2011

Unlike several life science sectors that felt the impact of the global crisis, the human vaccines market remained resilient to the global economic recession. Irked by weakened pipelines and growing pressure from patent expiries, the big pharma majors such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer found vaccines industry as safe avenue to invest and register guaranteed revenues. Vaccines register a higher profit margin in comparison to generic drugs, but lower than branded ones. Regional players from fast developing vaccine markets, such as India and China, are primarily engaged in meeting demands of public supply for routine and immunization vaccines. Driven by global H1N1 outbreak, Pandemic Influenza Vaccines registered high growth in 2009. The H1N1 pandemic increased sales of vaccine makers, including GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-pasteur, Novartis, Baxter, and MedImmune.

Human vaccines, earlier considered as a low profit yielding business, have transformed into cash cows for global pharmaceutical giants. Patents for human and animal vaccines accepted by European and US patent authorities totaled nearly 250 in 2007. Prophylactic vaccines represents the biggest earner in human vaccines market. However, therapeutic vaccines market is still untapped. Therapeutic vaccines is projected to grow rapidly over the coming years, subject to the regulatory approvals. Companies, both established and upcoming, are investing a major chunk of research resources into development of therapeutic vaccines capable of fighting diseases such as cancer, AIDS, and other diseases. Encouraging results, such as enhanced stability, production scalability, and immune response have also been reported in the field of DNA-related vaccines. Addiction vaccines are also forecast to witness phenomenal growth.

Product extension, which hitherto was a common practice in the pharma sector, is now finding success in the vaccines industry. Manufacturers are making constant efforts to introduce additional indications of established products to keep up profit margins. For instance, the best selling vaccines, such as Gardasil and Prevnar, are being evaluated for the prevention of other related diseases or infections. Prevnar, a 7-valent vaccine for protection against the seven serogroups, has been evaluated as Prevnar-13 for protection against six more serogroups. In December 2009, Prevnar/Prevenar 13 Infant obtained approval in the EU member states. The vaccine was approved in the US in February 2010. Gardasil, which was approved for the prevention of four strains of HPV (human papillomavirus), is currently being tested for the prevention of nine more strains.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.