Pfizer shutters vaccine sales business in China after Prevenar setback

As it beefs up its vaccines business, Pfizer's ($PFE) looking to bolster revenue from the top-selling Prevenar family of shots. But on that front, it's come up against a roadblock in China--and so it's shutting down its vaccines marketing there.

Pfizer says its import license for Prevenar in China has expired, and "based on a careful assessment of the situation, we have decided to cease our vaccines commercial operations in China at this time, effective immediately," Pfizer spokeswoman Sally Beatty told FiercePharma in an emailed statement.

That means "most colleagues" on Pfizer's 200-person vaccines commercial team will need to find other jobs. The company says it's working with its employees and encouraging them to apply for positions in other Pfizer units.

Meanwhile, Pfizer's decision will result in a shortage of pneumococcal protection in the country until Pfizer can launch Prevenar 13, the new-and-improved version of the jab that's already available elsewhere. The pharma giant will be working with regulatory agencies to get the new version on the market, Beatty said. As Reuters points out, China has a backlog of drug-approval applications, and Pfizer says there's no clear timeline for when the new Prevenar will roll out.

Elsewhere, though, Prevenar sales are on the rise--despite a recent price-drop on the vaccine. The EMA recently granted Prevenar 13 its green light, and last year, a key CDC committee gave the jab a nod for universal use among seniors--a recommendation analysts predicted could be worth an added $2 billion in sales.

And that's just what the drugmaker is looking for as it works to bolster the unit--a long-stated goal of CEO Ian Read. The company's also been turning to M&A to grow its vaccines numbers, striking a pair of deals within the past year with Baxter ($BAX) and Switzerland's Redvax.

- see Reuters' take

Special Reports: The top 5 vaccine makers by 2013 revenue - Pfizer | Top 10 best-selling vaccines of 2013 | The top 5 vaccines by 2020

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