U.K. Bexsero campaign cuts men B cases in half, building GSK's case in other countries


One year into a meningitis B vaccination campaign in the U.K., GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is touting promising preliminary data that may help to build the vaccine’s case for other countries considering similar programs.

The first-of-its-kind vaccination push led to a 50% reduction in meningitis B cases after 10 months, when compared with a four-year average, GSK said Monday. Bexsero was estimated to be 83% effective against any men B strain and 94% effective against preventable strains. What’s more, more 90% of eligible infants received the two doses.

The preliminary results may help inform other countries’ decisions about men B immunization campaigns, GSK vaccines CMO Thomas Breuer said in a statement. The new data “substantially advance our understanding" of meningitis B vaccines' usefulness in the real world, he said.

Early results from the immunization campaign come as GSK works to capitalize on its multibillion-dollar asset swap with Novartis ($NVS), which brought Bexsero and other vaccines under the GSK umbrella. So far, its efforts seem to be paying off: The pharma giant last month reported that the ex-Novartis business is set to soar past old expectations. Glaxo projects 2016 sales 9 times higher than Novartis’ previous estimates, and GSK's actual sales in 2015 were 5 times higher than Novartis projections.

To get things started following the deal close, GSK settled a price standoff between Novartis and the U.K. for the Bexsero campaign; reports said the parties came to an agreement of £20 per dose. As the campaign ramped up, demand was high enough that there was a brief shortage of the vaccine at U.K. private clinics.

Also helping drive demand along the way were men B outbreaks in the U.S and a social media furor in the U.K. over the death of a toddler earlier this year, Bloomberg reported.

After the latest data were released, Meningitis Research Foundation head of research Linda Glennie echoed GSK's enhanced case for the shot. "[W]e hope that other countries burdened by meningitis B will now consider protecting their people from this deadly disease," Glennie said in a statement.

Bexsero delivered £115 million in sales last year for GSK. The company has already passed that benchmark this year, with £62 million in first quarter Bexsero sales and £97 million in the second quarter.

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