The Philippines' drug regulator has approved the use of the Sanofi Pasteur vaccine Dengvaxia that covers all four types of dengue fever, its first approval in Asia.Sanofi Pasteur CEO Olivier Charmeil
The drug was also approved in Mexico and is under consideration in other countries in Asia and Latin America where the disease is most prevalent. According to figures from the World Health Organization, of the 400 million people infected every year, two-thirds are in Asia.
"It's a major step in the prevention of dengue and for public health," Olivier Charmeil, head of Sanofi's vaccines division, said in a report by AFP.
Dengue, which is also called "break bone fever" because of the debilitating joint pain it causes, has caused problems for researchers because of the four different strains.
Clinical test results showed Dengvaxia can immunize up to two-thirds of people aged 9 and above, which rises to 93% for the most severe form called dengue hemorrhagic fever which causes patients to bleed out. WHO figures show up to 22,000 people a year die from dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Sanofi says millions of doses of the vaccine are ready to ship and the company expects annual production to reach 100 million doses by 2017. The company said R&D took 20 years and cost more than €1.5 billion ($1.6 billion), while revenues from sales of the vaccine could bring the company $1 billion annually starting in 2018 or 2019, analysts said, according to the AFP report.
Merck ($MRK), Takeda and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) are also developing dengue vaccines.