Merck, Sanofi report on first vaccine in European pilot project

The tightening of healthcare budgets has driven countries across Europe to demand more evidence of a vaccine's value before agreeing to reimburse the product. And with each country having its own decision-making processes, this places a significant burden on companies.

Over the past few months, Sanofi ($SNY) and Merck's ($MRK) European vaccine joint venture has taken part in an initiative intended to shorten decision timelines and cut duplication from the process. The joint venture submitted Merck's shingles vaccine Zostavax to the European Network for a Health Technology (EUnetHTA) pilot project. Over four months, EUnetHTA, a network of 47 European health technology assessment bodies, produced a report on Zostavax that countries can use to help decide whether to reimburse the vaccine.

EUnetHTA has already used the Europe-wide assessment model for GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) cancer drug Votrient, but Zostavax is the first vaccine to take part in the pilot project. "Agreeing to run the first Rapid Relative Effectiveness pilot on a vaccine addressing an unmet medical need is another tangible sign of the increasing attention that European authorities give to prevention," Sanofi Pasteur MSD market access VP Andrea Rappagliosi said. The U.K. has already added Zostavax to its immunization program, and the EUnetHTA report could now help expand use across Europe.

Sanofi Pasteur MSD submitted Zostavax for EUnetHTA assessment in April, and the process was completed four months later. The speedy, centralized process could make Europe less of a headache for biopharma, which has suffered setbacks as governments push for greater evidence of a product's value. In July, Novartis ($NVS) became the latest company to have its plans dented when the U.K. decided against adding meningitis B vaccine Bexsero to its immunization schedule. 

- here's the press release