GlaxoSmithKline turned in enough vaccine sales to lead the industry in 2017, and that was without much contribution from its newly launched shingles vaccine, Shingrix. The company's vaccines business grew sales 6% at constant exchange rates as its larger pharma and consumer healthcare units posted meager growth.
GSK's vaccine growth for the year compared to a 3% increase for pharma and a 2% bump for consumer healthcare. All told, the company's vaccines pulled in £5.16 billion ($7.16 billion) for the year, besting Merck's $6.5 billion, Sanofi's $6.25 billion and Pfizer's $6 billion, all at current exchange rates.
In 2017, sales for GSK's meningitis vaccines grew 27% to £890 million ($1.24 billion). Flu vaccines jumped 12% to £488 million ($677 million), while sales for HPV shot Cervarix leaped 57% to £134 million ($185 million) thanks to a new launch in China, where the drugmaker is competing with Merck's Gardasil. GSK previously withdrew its HPV shot from the U.S. due to a lack of demand, ceding that important market to Merck. But it won Chinese approval for Cervarix back in 2016 and has partnered with e-commerce giant Alibaba for its launch.
Even with those results, much of the focus on the company's fourth-quarter earnings call was on newly approved Shingrix, which recorded £22 million in sales during its first quarter on the market. The FDA approved the shot in October, followed closely by a CDC panel's preferential recommendation over Merck's older Zostavax. Speaking to analysts on the call, GSK's president of global pharmaceuticals Luke Miels said the recommendation gives the company "target universe of over 100 million patients in the U.S. alone."
"We see a three-phase launch: first, counter-detailing Merck because these guys are still out there, then targeting Zostavax patients for re-vax, and then in the third phase driving market expansion," he added.
Analysts have predicted the vaccine will grow to blockbuster status by 2022. It's one of three new important launches for the drugmaker, along with HIV therapy Juluca and respiratory med Trelegy.
GSK's strong vaccine results come after the company inked a massive asset swap with Novartis that moved it away from costly cancer drugs and more into vaccines and consumer healthcare. In its 2017 World Preview report looking ahead to 2022, Evaluate predicted the company would lead Merck, Pfizer and Sanofi in order to top the vaccines industry, generating $8.66 billion in vaccine sales that year.
GSK chief financial officer Simon Dingemans said on the call the drugmaker expects vaccines "to be a mid to high single-digit grower over the period to 2020."