GlaxoSmithKline launched new e-commerce platform for vaccines, pharma products

In March, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Novartis ($NVS) completed their multibillion-dollar asset swap that was nearly a year in the making. The deal saw the British pharma bolster its vaccine business as it traded away its oncology unit for Novartis' vaccines business. Now, Glaxo is officially announcing the launch of GSKDirect, a new e-commerce platform that simplifies the way customers order vaccines and pharmaceutical products from the company.

The new platform was launched in November and allows the ordering of vaccines and contracting of pharma products to be done rapidly and on one site. Previously, customers had to order flu vaccines and nonflu vaccines in separate steps, Sonal Bauer, GSK's flu franchise lead, told FierceVaccines. To create a better system than its old one, GSK went through beta testing and incorporated customer preferences into the end product. Merck ($MRK) and Sanofi ($SNY) have comparable e-commerce sites for vaccine orders.

The launch comes hand in hand with the integration of Novartis' vaccines into GSK's unit, which ranked as the No. 3 vaccinemaker in 2014 with net sales of more than $1.5 billion in the U.S. last year. It also coincides with a transition to a 100% quadrivalent flu vaccine portfolio, which was first licensed in 2013-14 as a follow-up to GSK's older trivalent vaccine.

The GSKDirect system also helps Glaxo serve diverse types of customers using one platform, Bauer said.

"For the growing number of large hospital systems that order both vaccines and pharmaceuticals, GSKDirect will be a timesaver," said Jamey Millar, senior vice president of managed markets and government affairs, in a statement. "GSKDirect ... helps ensure our high-quality, patient-focused products reach a variety of customers, from large hospital systems to small independent physicians. Securing a contract with better prices now takes minutes compared to days and can be done on a single site with full customer visibility."

And while everything is now streamlined under one roof, GSK still offers customers a choice in how they purchase their vaccines. Customers who prefer to get their GSK vaccines from wholesalers and distributors may continue to do so, but those who choose to buy them directly from the company will benefit from not only a faster, simpler process but also more advanced discounts.

GSKDirect is the latest in a push to increase "volume" at the company. Sales of GSK's top seller, the asthma and COPD drug Advair, have been sinking thanks to payer pressure, so CEO Andrew Witty is focusing on undercutting competitors to increase sales instead of pushing more high-priced drugs. The strategy leans on vaccines, pharma and consumer health businesses to increase their annual sales by 2020. The addition of Novartis' vaccines to Glaxo's stable is a step in the right direction, but if the "volume" approach doesn't succeed, Witty's job could be on the line.

- here's the release

Special Report: The top 5 vaccine makers by 2014 revenue - GlaxoSmithKline