Pfizer, Glaxo sign 10-year vaccine deal for poor

LONDON — Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline signed a landmark 10-year deal March 23 to supply 60 million doses a year of cut-price pneumococcal vaccines to developing nations.

"This is a landmark deal. It has been the result of four years of intense work and negotiation, and it means that this year, 2010, we can begin to roll out a better pneumococcal vaccine that can tackle one of the biggest killers of children in the poorest parts of the world," Julian Lob-Levyt, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization's chief executive, told Reuters.

Pneumococcal disease claims the lives of approximately 800,000 children younger than 5. In total the disease kills 1.6 million people a year and 95 percent of deaths are in Africa and Asia.

The deal, brokered by the Geneva-based GAVI, is the first under a new scheme called an Advance Market Commitment that guarantees a market for vaccines supplied to poor nations but sets a maximum price drugmakers can expect to receive.

GAVI estimates that the introduction of new vaccines against pneumococcal disease — which causes serious illnesses such as pneumonia and meningitis — could save approximately 900,000 lives by 2015 and up to seven million lives by 2030. GAVI said it plans to introduce pneumococcal vaccines in 47 countries by 2015.

Pneumococcal disease not only kills small children but also maims, leaving survivors with high rates of mental disability, seizures and deafness.

The deal will be partly funded by Britain, Italy, Canada, Russia, Norway and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which agreed in June to invest a total of $1.5 billion in the project. GAVI says it needs to raise another $1.5 billion over the next five years to ensure the program is fully funded.

Glaxo's Synflorix shot protects against 10 strains of the streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that cause the disease, while Pfizer's Prevnar 13 shot protects against 13 strains.

Glaxo and Pfizer each committed to supply 30 million doses of their Synflorix and Prevnar 13 vaccines to GAVI over 10 years, at $7 per dose for the first 20 percent supplied, dropping to $3.50 for the remaining 80 percent.

By comparison, Glaxo and Pfizer charge between $54 and $108 per shot for their vaccines in rich nations.