Every flu season is different. Strains evolve and influenza vaccine manufacturers alter their formulas to meet those changes, covering the three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most prevalent during a given season.
But despite the wide availability of a vaccine--the U.S. FDA green-lighted influenza vaccines from 6 vaccine manufacturers this year--the illness remains a killer. Between 1976 and 2007, estimates of the number of flu-associated deaths range from 3,000 to 49,000, the Centers for Disease Control reports. About 90% of those deaths happened among people ages 65 and older.
Further, vaccination rates last season fell far below the CDC's target rates of 80%, coming in at around 42%. About 39% of adults were vaccinated during the 2011-2012 influenza season, compared with 75% of children between the ages of 6 months and 23 months and just more than a third of adolescents.
This year, a total of 135 million doses of influenza vaccine will be on hand.
So, what do these less-than-stellar vaccination rates mean for sales? Looking at actual worldwide sales for 2011 and 2012 sales estimates provided by EvaluatePharma, it appears sales as a whole will rise only slightly for the top 10 best-selling flu vaccines.
Novartis ($NVS) will likely see the biggest jump in sales, with its OptaFlu vaccine; the company reported $36 million in 2011 sales, and EvaluatePharma projects $71 million for 2012. Sanofi ($SNY) and Sanofi Pasteur MSD's Fluzone (sold as Vaxigrip outside the U.S.) will likely bring a $10 million jump in sales, to $1.343 billion this year from $1.333 billion in 2011.
The outlook isn't all promising for the top 10, though. Abbott Laboratories' ($ABT) Influvac will probably see a $10 million drop, to an estimated $188 million in 2012 from $198 million in 2011, Evaluate Pharma says. Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma's BIKEN HA vaccine is also expected to lose out, slumping by $6 million to a projected $108 million this year from $114 million in 2011.
Still, an aging population means more need for the flu vaccine, Jon Moser, senior analyst at EvaluatePharma, told FierceVaccines in an email.
"The changing world demographic provides a definite opportunity for companies offering flu vaccines, as populations age and chronic conditions become more prevalent," Moser said. "With this trend towards an older, less healthy population, demand should continue to increase for flu vaccines for the foreseeable future, with a non-specific vaccine that can protect against ever-evolving influenza strains being the holy grail in this space."
We'll see whether Moser's prediction pans out. -- Alison Bryant (email | Twitter)
Who: Sanofi/Sanofi Pasteur MSD
Estimated sales: $1.343 billion
Who: GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK)
Estimated sales: $375 million
Estimated sales: $359 million
Who: Abbott Laboratories
Estimated sales: $188 million
Who: AstraZeneca ($AZN)
Estimated sales: $162 million
Who: Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma
What: BIKEN HA
Estimated sales: $108 million
Estimated sales: $71 million
Who: Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)
What: Inflexal V
Estimated sales: $35 million
Who: Sinovac Biotech ($SVA)
Estimated sales: $10 million
Who: Laboratorios Farmacéuticos ROVI
Estimated sales: $3 million