Fast-growing Bexsero, flu shots propel GlaxoSmithKline's vaccines biz to a big Q3

Bexsero

In what’s becoming a winning trend for the British drugmaker, GlaxoSmithKline reported “standout” quarterly vaccine sales at £1.6 billion, a 20% growth rate more than double the postings at its pharma and consumer healthcare units.

The vaccine's success stemmed from an “absolutely fantastic” quarter for meningitis vaccine Bexsero and an aggressive push to get an early start on flu, executives said during the company's Q3 earnings call. Bexsero more than doubled sales to £133 million over last year’s third quarter, while GSK’s flu vaccines grew revenue by 60% to £325 million.

Picked up in the Novartis asset swap, Bexsero continues to grow the overall market and win share to boot, execs said. GSK plans to continue cultivating that growth by beefing up manufacturing to meet demand, they added. Earlier this year, private clinics in the U.K. experienced a shortage of the shot that GSK cleared up in March.

Asked whether Bexsero has reached its potential, GSK’s top brass quickly shot that idea down, explaining that the company is “in very, very early days of this marketplace.” GSK’s volume for the shot is approaching 10 million annual doses, up from 2.5 million a few years ago. So far, the U.K., Spain and Italy have been important for Bexsero, among other markets.

In flu, GSK leadership chalked up the win to execution. The drugmaker shipped more doses early this year to win market share at a higher average price point. However, that strategy potentially means lower flu sales growth in Q4.

“That is a very deliberate effort to shift that flu business into Q3, and obviously going forward, the challenge will be to do that every Q3,” officials said on the call.

Other standouts for the unit were pneumococcal shot Synflorix, which grew 43% to £154 million, and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis booster vaccine Boostrix. That vaccine expanded 18% to £159 million on the period.

HPV vaccine Cervarix, which GSK recently pulled from the U.S. market due to “very low” market demand, posted sales 21% lower than last year’s third quarter. Merck’s Gardasil franchise now has complete control of the lucrative U.S. market.

Overall, vaccines' performance handily beat growth in pharma--6%--and consumer health at 5%. The results are in line with Q2 earnings, when vaccines posted 11% growth to outperform other units. And they follow a report last month that predicted GSK’s focus on vaccines would propel it to the top of the industry in sales by 2022, with Sanofi, Pfizer and Merck trailing in line.

And the company may have more good things coming, as it just this week filed an FDA application for shingles vaccine Shingrix, which analysts have said could reach blockbuster sales.

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