Prevnar is the only vaccine Pfizer sells in China. The company said it will work with the Chinese regulator to bring to market a newer version, Prevenar 13.
“Pfizer anticipates a supply shortage of Prevenar in China before the launch of Prevenar 13,” spokesman Andrew Widger told in-Pharmatechnologist.com. “Based on a careful assessment of this situation, we have decided to cease our Vaccines commercial operations in China at this time, effective immediately.”
The company did not say why the China Food and Drug Administration had declined to renew the vaccine’s import licence.
“Most colleagues will be impacted” on the roughly 200-strong China sales team, Pfizer said.
“We are actively working with impacted colleagues in the Vaccines business unit and encouraging them to identify available opportunities within other business units and functions at Pfizer,” Widger told us.
Its other operations in China, including R&D, are not affected. The company employs around 9,000 staff in the country.
The company’s spokesman said Pfizer is working with local authorities to minimise disruption to children’s immunisation schedules.
The only rival pneumococcal conjugate vaccine on the market is GSK’s Synflorix, which is approved in the EU.
The updated version of the vaccine has broader coverage, containing 13 polysaccharides from the bacterium Streptococcus pneumonia, compared to Prevenar’s seven. It is used to prevent pneumonia and invasive diseases such as septicaemia and meningitis, and also against acute otitis media (middle ear infection) in children.
Pfizer's global revenues from Prevenar 13 were $4.46 bn globally last year, up 12 percent against 2013, the firm said in its annual report.
Prevenar’s pricing has been criticised by NGOs. Medecins Sans Frontieres claimed cost of the vaccine – at $45.59 per child – was 68 times more expensive in 2014 than 2001.
MSF director Rohit Malpani, blamed “a handful of big pharmaceutical companies are overcharging donors and developing countries for vaccines that already earn them billions of dollars in wealthy countries."
Pfizer announced earlier this year “new commitments aimed at giving people in the world’s poorest nations greater access to our Prevenar 13 vaccine,” including a third price cut for prescriptions sold via Gavi, the vaccine alliance. This brings each of the three to four doses needed to $3.10.
Pfizer’s latest report states Prevenar 13 is sold 32 Gavi-eligible countries and it plans further launches.