Pfizer pulls vaccines sales business out of China

What do you do when China doesn't renew your cash cow's import license? Close your vaccine sales operations for the time being, at least, until you can get its successor approved.

Pfizer ($PFE) said on Thursday that it would be pulling its vaccines sales business out of China after the import license of Prevenar, its top-selling treatment--and its only vaccine sold in China--was not renewed; 200 employees in vaccines sales will be affected.

"The import license for Prevenar in China has expired. … Based on a careful assessment of this situation, we have decided to cease our Vaccines commercial operations in China at this time, effective immediately," the company said in a statement.

"We have approximately 200 colleagues in our Vaccines commercial team and most colleagues will be impacted. We are actively working with impacted colleagues in the Vaccines business unit and encouraging them to identify available opportunities within other business units and functions at Pfizer," the company said in the statement.

While the pneumococcal jab is the only vaccine the pharma giant sells in the country, its sales--and sales of other drugs--in China helped compensate for weaker global revenue growth in 2014. It is also the only vaccine approved to prevent pneumococcal disease in children under two in China.

The company expects a shortage of the vaccine until it launches its successor, Prevenar 13, which is already available elsewhere. Pfizer will work with Chinese regulators to make this happen, spokeswoman Trupti Wagh told Reuters, but there is no clear time frame for bringing Prevenar 13 to the Chinese market.

Pfizer snapped up Prevenar in 2009 when it acquired Wyeth. Just three years later, it was Pfizer's fourth best-seller with $3.72 billion in 2012 revenues. Since then, Prevenar 13 has become the world's best-selling vaccine and showed no sign of slowing down. In March this year, it scored yet another new indication in Europe, but under pressure from price critics, it earlier this year knocked its global price down from $3.30 per dose to $3.10 per dose for a three-dose regimen.

- read the Reuters story

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