Nations scrap orders for GSK swine flu jab

British drugs company renegotiates H1N1 deals with 'many governments'

The British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline has confirmed it is in talks with several countries keen to reduce their orders of its swine flu vaccine Pandemrix. The Belgian government yesterday became the latest to tell the company that it was paring back its requirement.

The health ministry in Brussels said it would be cutting its order by about €33m (£29m) after initially asking for 12.6 million doses of Pandemrix. The cancellation comes after a host of countries in the northern hemisphere told the pharmaceuticals industry that there was insufficient demand for the treatment. Britain, France, Germany, Spain and the US have all indicated in the past two weeks that they will be renegotiating their deals.

Demand for vaccines to combat H1N1 influenza has fizzled out because the pandemic has proven to be less aggressive than was first feared. Regulators who initially indicated that two vaccinations would be needed by each swine flu patient now say that one dose is sufficient. Analysts predict that European governments could return or cancel up to 50 per cent of what they ordered, which could reduce GSK's income from Pandemrix by £300m.

Andrew Witty, the chief executive of GSK, said in October that forecasts for about £1bn in sales of Pandemrix in the fourth quarter were "pretty close to being right". However, since he made his remarks a number of analysts have lowered the estimates. Credit Suisse, for example, cut its forecasts for GSK's 2009 and 2010 sales by $800m.

GSK issued a statement yesterday, saying it shipped 130 million doses of Pandemrix, worth £835m, in the final three months of last year. "Shipments of the vaccine continue to be delivered in the first half of 2010 and GSK is in ongoing discussions with many governments as their needs evolve," the company added. "This includes renegotiation of contracts with governments who have announced changes to their planned immunisation programmes, and with governments who have placed new orders for the pandemic vaccine. It is therefore too early to say what the final number of doses supplied and the value of these orders will be."

GSK pointed out that while sales in the northern hemisphere would be hit, countries in the southern hemisphere had yet to reach peak swine flu season. Drugs that were originally earmarked for countries such as Britain and Germany this winter could be re-routed elsewhere in the coming months.

Yet this could still be costly for GSK. Countries south of the equator are generally thought to be paying less for the vaccine. The company has disclosed that it charges clients on a sliding scale, from €7 a dose for developed countries, to providing the World Health Organisation with 60 million vaccines for free.

Earlier this week, GSK confirmed that German health officials had cancelled 30 per cent of its Pandemrix order, trimming it to 34 million doses. Meanwhile, the French health minister, Roselyne Bachelot, told French television last week: "I have cancelled 50 million doses. These orders had not been paid for or delivered so they are cancelled."

GSK insists that talks with France are ongoing. Ms Bachelot's ministry originally said it would need 94 million vaccines and ordered them from GSK, Sanofi-Pasteur, Baxter and Novartis. Baxter, along with GSK, has a contract to supply swine flu vaccine in the UK.

News of more cancelled vaccine orders came as the WHO hit back at claims that its H1N1 forecasts had been unduly influenced by the big drugs companies. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO director-general's special adviser on pandemic influenza, said yesterday: "The world is going through a real pandemic ... the description of it as a fake is both wrong and irresponsible".

His comments followed a claim by Wolfgang Wodarg, the chairman of the Council of Europe's health committee, that global drugs companies had influenced the WHO's assessment of the dangers of the H1N1 virus, calling the outbreak a "false pandemic"

Mr Wodarg said the WHO's campaign was "one of the greatest medicine scandals of the century".

GSK also issued a robust rebuttal of Mr Wodarg's comments yesterday, saying: "Allegations of undue influence are misguided and unfounded. The WHO declared that H1N1 swine flu met the criteria for a pandemic.

"Responding to it has required unprecedented collaboration. As WHO have stated, legal regulations and numerous safeguards are in place to manage possible conflicts of interest."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk