Wall Street Journal Examines Big Pharma’s ‘Growing Interest’ In Emerging-Market Vaccine Development, Production

The Wall Street Journal examines “big pharma’s growing interest in a corner of healthcare – emerging-market inoculations,” in light of a recent move by Novartis to purchase an 85 percent stake in the Chinese vaccine maker Zhejiang Tianyuan Bio-Pharmaceutical Co. In the summer, drug maker Sanofi-Aventis SA made a similar move to acquire a majority stake in India’s Shantha Biotechnics, the newspaper notes.

“In the past, vaccine use in these countries has been limited to basic shots against polio, measles and tuberculosis,” the newspaper writes. “But as the economies grow, both government and private spending on healthcare is rising quickly. Vaccines are one of the first tools developing countries spend money on, because they prevent disease and therefore save money in the long run.”

“Novartis, Sanofi and others aim to expand production and sales of existing inoculations in these markets, and to accelerate development of new shots. Shantha currently sells vaccines for hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus and other diseases, but is also developing new inoculations against typhoid, cholera and rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhea in infants and children, killing more than 600,000 a year world-wide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The article includes comments by Tido von Schoen-Angerer, of Medecins Sans Frontieres, who expressed concerns over how multinational ownership of vaccine makers in emerging markets might affect vaccine prices, and Jacques Cholat, of Sanofi, who emphasized the company’s commitment maintaining Shantha’s low cost vaccines. “About 90% of Shantha’s sales come from governments in the region and from United Nations agencies, which buy vaccines to distribute in poor countries world-wide, Cholat said,” the newspaper writes (Whalen, 11/5).