Global Health: Vaccine Makers Ranked on Pricing and Research

Global Health: Vaccine Makers Ranked on Pricing and Research

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A nurse administrating a flu vaccine shot. The Access to Vaccines Index was released last week. Seasonal influenza is among the top diseases with the most vaccines on the market.

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Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

The pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi sell the most vaccines and earn the most money doing so, while the Serum Institute of India sells the most vaccines at a discount, according to the first Access to Vaccines Index, which was released last week.

The new index is produced by the Dutch foundation that issues the biennial Access to Medicines Index, which ranks drug manufacturers according to how easy it is for people in poor countries to get the companies’ lifesaving medications. GSK has led that list since it was first published in 2008.

The vaccines index does not rank companies from one to 20, as the medicines index does. There are so few large vaccine companies, and their product portfolios are so diverse, that giving each an overall ranking seemed unfair, said Jayasree K. Iyer, executive director of the Access to Medicines Foundation.

So the foundation ranked each vaccine manufacturer on three criteria: research, pricing and supply. Generally, GSK led Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson and Merck, while Pfizer lagged behind.

Despite providing vaccines at low cost, the Serum Institute scored poorly on pricing because it does not explain how it sets fees. The institute concentrates on vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization and sells 1.4 billion doses a year around the world.

The vaccine industry has changed rapidly in the past two decades, the report found. The market grew to $33 billion from $6 billion between 2000 and 2014.

Generous donor support has gotten vaccines for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles and hepatitis B to more than 80 percent of the world’s poorest children. But the rest are still missed or do not get the booster doses they need.

Also, children in rich countries get protection against certain diseases — like chickenpox, German measles, rotavirus, pneumonia, flu and papillomavirus — that poor children do not.

“There is a world to be won by increasing access to vaccines,” Dr. Iyer said.

The report lists 32 diseases for which vaccines are urgently needed but none exist. A consortium led by donors recently pledged $500 million toward developing vaccines against three of them: Lassa, Nipah and MERS viruses.

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