Pfizer's Prevenar price cut 'inadequate,' critics say

Last week, international charity Médecins Sans Frontières called on Pfizer ($PFE) to drop its price on pneumococcal vaccine Prevenar 13. The pharma giant responded earlier this week, lopping 20 cents off the per-dose cost through vaccine alliance GAVI. But the way MSF sees it, that's not good enough.

MSF Access Campaign vaccine policy adviser Kate Elder

In a Tuesday statement, Kate Elder, the vaccines policy adviser for the charity's access campaign, called the move from $3.30 to $3.10 per dose "inadequate" and reiterated its request that Pfizer and fellow pneumococcal vaccine maker GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) make their jabs available at a three-dose cost of $5 per child in developing countries.

As Elder speculates, both companies can bear the discounts. For one, low-cost vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India is planning to bring a version of the shot to market for just $6 per child. "We're assuming they will still be making a profit at that price, so we think Pfizer and GSK can afford to slash their prices a whole lot more," she said.

Pfizer Vaccines president Susan Silbermann

For two, the drugmakers have racked up more than $19 billion in global sales since rolling out the pneumococcal disease-blockers, MSF points out. Pfizer has raked in the vast majority of that haul, with Prevenar taking the No. 1 spot on the world's list of top sellers; in 2013, it generated $4.048 billion.

And for three, GAVI awards Pfizer with subsidies beyond the price of the vaccine, which have so far totaled $550 million, MSF points out.

But Pfizer, which had already cut the price of the vaccine twice before the most recent lowering, called the new program "sustainable." It's agreed to apply the new sticker through 2025, it said.

"We understand the importance of ensuring sustainable access to vaccinations, and we are very proud of what we have been able to do over time," Pfizer Vaccines President Susan Silbermann told The Wall Street Journal.

- see MSF's statement
- read Pfizer's release
- get more from The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)

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