Put GlaxoSmithKline at the head of the list of vaccine-makers able to profit from a potential flu pandemic. The company just got EU go-ahead to market its H5N1 vaccine, Prepandrix, becoming the first pharma to get a Euro-license for a pre-pandemic vaccine. Prepandrix gives some protection against several currently circulating strains of avian flu. If a pandemic broke out, it would be administered to health workers and others most at risk as a sort of stop-gap measure, while drugmakers worked to develop another vaccine precisely targeted to the pandemic strain.
Countries such as Switzerland and Finland had already placed orders for the shots, anticipating approval, while others are in talks with GSK. As in the case of Roche's Tamiflu antiviral med--and to a lesser extent GSK's antiflu Relenza--countries are looking to stockpile Prepandrix to prep for the possibility of an H5N1 outbreak. Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis, and Baxter all are developing pandemic vaccines, too, but GSK obviously will have the first-to-market advantage.