Pfizer looks to rebuild abandoned vaccines biz in China with brand-new Prevenar 13 nod

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More than a year after pulling its vaccines out of one of the world’s most challenging but lucrative drug markets, Pfizer has moved back into China with a nod for big-selling Prevenar 13.

With that green light in hand for its pneumococcal disease blocker, a key contributor to Pfizer’s overall business, the company is working on a launch timeline, a spokesperson told FiercePharma.

Pfizer didn’t indicate what level of sales the new market could bring, but even a small boost could help the shot, sold in the U.S. as Prevnar 13. After boasting double-digit growth for some time, the shot has struggled in recent quarters; for Q3, sales fell 3% to $1.54 billion. In September, analysts with EvaluatePharma predicted Prevnar 13 would slip 1% yearly through 2022.

The new approval in China covers Prevenar 13 in children aged six weeks to 15 months. Approximately 30,000 children in that age range die in China from pneumococcal diseases each year.

The Chinese government nod is a turnabout for Pfizer in that vaccines market, which the drug giant decided to abandon last year. Pfizer moved to pull its vaccines from the country after the import license for Prevenar 13’s predecessor wasn’t renewed. That decision affected 200 employees in vaccine sales, according to reports at the time.

Now, Pfizer will be staffing back up for the new launch. A Pfizer spokesperson didn't specify staffing numbers, but said the company looks “forward to building a strong vaccines business in China, and we aim to attract the most qualified talent.”

Prevenar 13’s approval in China could serve as a much-needed boost for a franchise that has struggled in recent quarters after posting enormous growth last year. The shot brought $6.24 billion to Pfizer's top line in 2015.

In 2014, a key CDC committee in the U.S. recommended the vaccine for adults over 65, creating an opportunity for a $2 billion sales boost. But because of a “high initial capture rate,” Pfizer now says the franchise is suffering from an “expected decline.”

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