H1N1 oversupply puts earnings at 'modest' risk

France's approach to an over-abundance of H1N1 flu vaccine has stirred up fears--and critics. As we reported yesterday, France is trying to sell off millions of doses to countries in the Middle East and Latin America. It's also looking to cancel orders for 50 million more doses. Yep, that's 50 million, more than half its initial order of 94 million doses, divided among Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Baxter.

Sanofi has already agreed to cancel 9 million of France's ordered doses, and government officials are in talks with Glaxo and the rest. Together with previous cancellations, return attempts, and sell-off moves made by Germany, Spain and Switzerland, the French moves have analysts a tad bit worried. Morgan Stanley said the cutbacks illustrate declining demand for the shots, putting earnings at GSK, Sanofi and Novartis at "modest near-term risk," Reuters reports. Long-term, sales growth related to H1N1 probably will be limited, Morgan Stanley said.

Sanofi, however, believes it can make up its French losses with orders from other countries. "We see additional orders from countries we were not in position to supply before," a spokesman told Reuters. "As [H1N1] goes away from the north there will be strong reasons for governments in the south to have H1N1 vaccinations."

Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has drawn fire for the oversupply. The opposition party has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the "fiasco" of the 94-million-dose order, the Financial Times reports. Politicians also didn't lose the opportunity to criticize pharma: The drugmakers "are the big winners in this affair," a Socialist party spokesman told the paper.

- get the Reuters news
- see the article in the FT