Bexsero gains propel GSK's vaccines unit to pharma-beating 16% growth in Q1

GlaxoSmithKline grew Bexsero sales 79% in the first quarter to £126 million in the first quarter.

With a new captain at the helm, GlaxoSmithKline maintained its vaccines momentum in the first quarter with 16% growth for the unit, thanks to standout sales from meningitis shots picked up in its Novartis deal. And a new plant and forthcoming launch could keep the growth coming.

Former Novartis vaccines Bexsero and Menveo grew 79% and 17% in the first quarter, respectively, as GSK moves to make the most out of its decision to bet on vaccines. The British drugmaker also reported (PDF) that flu shots Fluarix and FluLaval grew 11% on the period, thanks to early deliveries around the world, and that established vaccines benefited from CDC and wholesaler stocking.

All told, GSK’s vaccines generated £1.15 billion ($1.25 billion) for the drugmaker in the first quarter. The unit’s 16% growth rate outperformed GSK’s first-quarter pharma sales growth of 4% and consumer health’s increase of 2%, all at constant exchange rates.

On-Demand Webinar

Leveraging A Medical Record-Enriched Patient Dataset for COVID-19 Research

You are invited to join a webinar that will explore the ways researchers can leverage this enriched dataset for important COVID-19 research. Sign up today for this informative webinar to learn how you can leverage one of the only medical record reviews solely using real-world data from hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

RELATED: Witty's bet on vaccines pays off in GSK CEO's final full year

Looking forward, GSK execs have several reasons to be optimistic for the future in vaccines. Sensing potential for Bexsero, GSK just last month announced it’s building a $175 million plant in Germany to boost capacity of its star meningococcal B shot.

U.S. and European drug regulators are expected to act on a pipeline vaccine, Shingrix, in the fourth quarter of this year, and so GSK is making moves to ready the launch of a shot expected to reach $1 billion in sales. On the market, the shingles vaccine would take on Merck’s Zostavax.

RELATED: With first Shingrix application, GSK advances toward $1B market duel with Merck

Speaking to analysts on the first-quarter call, new GSK CEO Emma Walmsley said the company’s “immediate focus” is to “deliver excellent commercial execution” on three drug launches, Shingrix included.

She also talked down any remaining hopes that GSK might split, reiterating GSK’s commitment to focus on pharma, vaccines and healthcare. Due to “uncertainty and volatility” in pharma, she said the management team likes “to have more certainty in terms of reliable cash flows both from vaccines and consumer [health]."

RELATED: Glaxo's new chief stands by three-unit structure, foreshadows cultural changes amid 'quiet' Q1 results

Former GSK CEO Andrew Witty bucked the pharma trend back in 2014 when he inked the massive Novartis asset swap, doubling down in low margin business and shipping away pricey cancer meds. In his final year as CEO, the company’s vaccines unit outgrew any other business at the U.K. drug giant.

Suggested Articles

Life sciences companies have pivoted quickly during COVID-19 - Syneos Health® is supporting more than 80 active COVID-19 projects, including vaccines.

New York's Covaxx has signed on with three South American nations to provide 140 million doses of its early-stage COVID-19 vaccine.

To get the COVID-19 vaccine out quickly, Pfizer has been running rehearsals at distribution sites, creating "growing confidence," U.S. officials said.