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Pricing pressures preventing UK access to MenB vaccine

GlaxoSmithKline’s Bexsero will need a dramatic price cut to gain NHS entry

GSK HQ London 

The now year-long delay to the uptake of the world's first and only vaccination for meningitis B has been heavily criticised by charities as the government and the drug's manufacturer remain at loggerheads over its price.

The vaccine, known as Bexsero in Europe, was originally developed by Novartis but the Swiss firm recently sold the product to GSK in a multi-billion dollar asset swap.

The drug was cleared for use on the NHS last year, but the UK's specialist vaccine committee the JCVI said it could only be funded if was introduced at a 'cost effective price'.

The shot currently costs £75, but the JCVI have indicated that it will need to be around £7 per dose for it to be deemed cost-effective for the NHS.

Negotiations have not been made public, but the delay must mean that neither side has yet agreed to a new and final price. 

The hold up is now being criticised by meningitis charities that want a resolution as soon as possible.

Sue Davie, from charity Meningitis Now, said: “Too many of our children are needlessly dying or being left disabled due to this lethargic bureaucracy and this government's inability to conclude a deal.”

But health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC he was hopeful that a deal could be reached “very soon”.

Hunt said since the company that initially developed the vaccine had been taken over by GSK, there had been a “substantial” change in price and that he feels “very encouraged”.

Hunt said he has spoken to London-based GSK and its chief executive Sir Andrew Witty this week. He added: “We do need them to be reasonable, but we certainly want to do everything we can to make sure that we get this vaccine out there.”

Dr Ian Maconichie, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, added: “One year on, we appeal that a decision is made imminently so, should the vaccine be introduced, it can begin to save children's lives and spare some from severe preventable disability as soon as possible.”

There are vaccines against other forms of meningitis, but the Bexsero is the only one to protect against meningitis B.

Rates of the disease have been declining and now only affect a handful of people each year, leading to austerity hit governments to re-think the cost of the vaccine.

Novartis' drug has been shown to be effective against 73% of the different strains of the disease.

But despite these numbers, questions remain about its overall effectiveness, and researchers say that bigger trials are needed to see just how well it can stop the spread of the disease. 

Article by
Ben Adams

23rd March 2015

From: Healthcare

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