GSK extracting standout sales from former Novartis vaccine biz

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GlaxoSmithKline had no shortage of critics back in 2014 when it signed the deal to offload its oncology assets and take on Novartis’ vaccines business. But the company may be feeling vindicated with projections that this year, the ex-Novartis’ vaccines business is set to soar past Novartis' earlier projections.

In speaking with Bloomberg, GSK vaccines chief medical officer Thomas Breuer said last year's sales of Novartis vaccines exceeded the Swiss drugmaker's prior projections by 5 times and that this year GSK looks for it to beat those forecasts by 9 times.

Part of the success has been due to Glaxo’s sales abilities and the fact that previously Novartis vaccines were “sub-scale,” AXA Framlington Health Funds manager Dani Saurymper told Bloomberg. He added that the Swiss drugmaker “really didn’t have the same global reach and breadth of portfolio that Glaxo has” in vaccines.

Novartis vaccines posted a $165 million operating loss in 2013. And immediately following the asset swap in the first quarter of last year, GSK saw its vaccines operating profit fall 31% and operating margin fall 12% versus the prior year on a “higher than anticipated cost base.” But since then, turnaround efforts have been paying off. Vaccines outperformed other groups at the drugmaker in Q2, achieving 11% growth and £270 million in profit.

One big factor was meningitis B outbreaks in the U.S.--there have been 7 at universities since 2009--plus a social media furor in the U.K. over the death of a toddler earlier this year, all of which played a part in boosting Bexsero demand, its vaccine for that infection, the news service reports. In fact, demand for the meningitis B vaccine was so high this year that for awhile there was a shortage of the jab in U.K. private clinics. That has since been resolved.

To get the ball rolling following the multibillion-dollar deal close, GSK settled a prior standoff between Novartis and the U.K. over the price of Bexsero for a national immunization campaign. At the time, reports said the parties came to an agreement of £20 per dose.

But the drugmaker doesn’t plan to stop there in supporting Bexsero. The U.K. pharma is additionally looking to grow the vaccine's uses, testing whether it could prevent men B carriage in teenagers or protect against gonorrhea. At a conference next month, investigators will present data on Bexsero’s ability to prevent the sexually transmitted disease.

Also at that conference, officials will release data on the U.K.’s Bexsero immunization program, a development that could make other health authorities consider taking a similar approach.

- here's the Bloomberg story

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