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UK to pay for GSK’s MenB vaccine after year’s delay

British firm says the deal offers ‘fair value’ to the NHS

GSK HQ 

GlaxoSmithKline and the UK government have finally agreed a deal for the world's first and only vaccination for meningitis B after a year of delays and negotiations 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 is meant to cost £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. Novartis said no to this price, and for 12 months the vaccine has not been used in the UK will a deal was hammered out.

But just weeks after GSK took control of the drug, the Department of Health has now agreed to pay for the vaccine - although the price has not been made public.

Bexsero will now be added to the UK's national childhood immunisation programme. This means that children will receive the vaccine starting at two months of age, followed by two further doses.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “I am very proud that we will be the first country in the world to have a nationwide MenB vaccination programme, helping to protect our children from a devastating disease.

“MenB can be severely disabling or fatal, especially in babies and young children. Losing a child is every parent's worst nightmare so I am delighted that we have reached an agreement with GSK to supply the vaccine.”

Nikki Yates, general manager of GSK in the UK, said: “As a British company, we are delighted to have concluded an agreement with the Government, just three weeks after we acquired the vaccine, which offers fair value to the NHS and at the same time is sustainable for GSK.

“It is great news that as a result of today's announcement babies in the UK can be vaccinated against meningitis B and we look forward to working closely with the Department of Health as the immunisation programme is rolled out.

Sue Davie, chief executive of Meningitis Now, added: “This is the news we have been waiting for. To know that babies will be protected against MenB is fantastic and another great step forward in our fight against meningitis.” 

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

30th March 2015

From: Healthcare

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