GSK responds to MSF's plea with pricing explanation--no discount

MSF Access Campaign vaccine policy adviser Kate Elder

After urging price concessions for pneumococcal disease vaccines in January and receiving a 20-cent-per-dose discount from Pfizer ($PFE), Médecins Sans Frontières is sure to be unhappy with GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) response.

The British drugmaker issued a statement on Thursday explaining that the prices of its Synflorix are as low as possible and offered no discount.

"Many of our available vaccines are advanced and complex and require significant upfront capital investment to make and supply," the statement said. "Our pneumococcal vaccine is one of the most complex we've ever manufactured, essentially combining 10 vaccines in one."

In countries that are eligible for pricing through the vaccine alliance GAVI, GSK said it is providing the vaccine at a "deeply discounted price," adding that it is just covering costs with the pricing. "To discount it further would threaten our ability to supply it to these countries in the long-term," GSK said in a statement. "Nevertheless, we continue to look at ways to reduce production costs and any savings we make we would pass on to GAVI."

The response comes months after MSF urged GSK--along with Pfizer--to decrease the three-dose price of pneumococcal disease blockers to $5 per child in poor countries. The jabs account for about 45% of the cost of fully vaccinating a child against 12 diseases, MSF said.

Pfizer, in turn, lowered the price of its Prevenar 13 from $3.30 to $3.10 per dose, a move MSF dubbed "inadequate." The international charity then reiterated its request, saying that the companies can and should lower their prices further.

In its reasoning, MSF cited Serum Institute of India's plan to bring a similar shot to the market for just $6 per child and added that the two drugmakers have racked up more than $19 billion in global sales since introducing the vaccines. Pfizer has grabbed the lion's share of that figure, with its Prevenar 13 taking the No. 1 spot in 2013 of the world's list of top-selling vaccines at $4.048 billion. As of January, GSK's Synflorix had racked up less than $3 billion in sales since launch.

- here's the statement

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