Novartis in thicket of H1N1 vaccine cancellations

Never again, Novartis says. Never again will it structure its pandemic vaccine contracts the way it did last year. That's because about half of the 15 governments that ordered H1N1 flu vaccine from the company cancelled part of their orders, the Wall Street Journal reports, and some of those governments are still negotiating their payments.

Future vaccine contracts will have to provide for the exigencies--and the essential changeability--of a pandemic. As Novartis vaccine chief Andrin Oswald told the WSJ, the H1N1 situation proved to be volatile. Governments threatened Novartis with "severe consequences" if the company didn't deliver more vaccine more quickly. "Some of these governments, of course, they called four weeks later and said, you know what, now we don't need it," Oswald said.

Now, countries are trying to pay Novartis less than they originally agreed for the doses they ended up cancelling. France, for instance, said it would pay 16 percent of the original price for the cancelled doses. Future pandemic contracts ought to address this very issue, Oswald said. "We would need... more clarity in the contract about what happens in the situation we have right now, if a government feels it has too much vaccine," he said, "because the debates we have right now are not helpful."

- read the WSJ piece (sub. req.)