Pandemic could be the making of FluMist

The swine flu pandemic could make AstraZeneca's premium price for MedImmune look prescient. The drugmaker plans to produce 200 million doses of MedImmune's nasal-spray vaccine FluMist by March, Bloomberg reports, in a move that could generate some $2.3 billion in sales through 2010.

That's quite a surge from the $104 million the product brought in last year. And it would make FluMist one of MedImmune's best sellers, at least partly justifying the $15 billion AstraZeneca paid for the company back in 2007. "This puts MedImmune in a better light and helps pay back some of that $15 billion," Jeffrey Holford, a Jefferies analyst, told the news service. "This is the first positive surprise that's tangible."

To make that happen, MedImmune has to expand FluMist use beyond U.S. borders. Currently, the vaccine is only approved in the United States, but the company has applied for approval in Canada and Europe, and it's working with the WHO to get FluMist into developing countries. European regulators say they're expediting review of FluMist in light of the pandemic.

The company also has to come up with an alternative to the spray devices now used to deliver FluMist; its production of the vaccine is outstripping its supplier's ability to make the sprayers. It's working on using droppers or nasal swabs instead.

- read the Bloomberg story