Thursday, June 09, 2011

Drug Firms Cut Vaccine Prices

Life-saving vaccines are becoming cheaper for the developing world. Several major drug firms including, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Merck, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi-Aventis have agreed to cut vaccine prices through the international vaccine alliance, Gavi. These price cuts would be balanced out by higher prices for vaccines in richer countries, and have the promise of saving many lives.

Rotavirus-related diarrhea kills more than 500,000 children a year, and GSK said they would cut the cost of their vaccine for rotavirus by 67%. Andrew Witty, chief executive of GSK explains that their company needs to invest in the next generation of drugs and vaccines, and in order to do that they must be making a profit from current vaccines. However, it is unrealistic to think that some of the poorest countries would be able to contribute to the profit of the drug companies. This should not mean that they do not get to receive the vaccines. Therefore, as Witty explains, richer countries will contribute to the drug company profits for both themselves and the developing world.

Dr. Freddie Coker, a pediatrician in Sierra Leone’s capital says he is excited about the cost cutting. “About 40% of cases we see are due to diarrhea diseases. The mortality rate can be as high as 50%. The earlier a child is commenced on treatment, the better the outcome," said Coker.

Numerous anti-poverty campaigners support these cuts in cost. Jamie Drummond, executive director of campaign group ONE, urges international leaders to act. “Gavi's ambition to save four million lives in the next five years is only achievable if the international donor community steps up to the plate,” said Drummond. These cuts are a promising step in saving thousands of lives!

-Sami Ressler