Press release |

At Berlin Vaccine Summit, World leaders try their luck at spinning ‘Pharma’s Wheel of Fortune’

MSF calls on GSK and Pfizer to cut their pneumonia vaccine price in half, to $5 per child

Berlin/Geneva, 27 January 2015 — Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) volunteers dressed as world leaders tried their luck at spinning “Pharma’s Wheel of Fortune” on the sidelines of the Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance’s, donor pledging conference in Berlin today.  Whichever way Chancellor Merkel, President Obama, or Prime Minister Cameron played, the big pharma game show hosts—dressed as GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer executives—always won, generating higher profits for themselves, and raking in more subsidies from donor countries and taxpayers.   

World leaders were meeting in Berlin to pledge an additional US$7.5 billion to pay for vaccines in the world’s poorest countries for the next five years.

“Over one third of the $7.5 billion countries are being asked to pledge will go towards paying for just one vaccine, the high-priced pneumonia vaccine,” said Dr. Jennifer Cohn, Medical Director for MSF’s Access Campaign.

Pneumonia kills approximately one million children each year, and is the leading cause of child mortality. GSK and Pfizer have collectively reported over $19 billion in sales globally for the pneumonia vaccine since its launch.

MSF is therefore urging GSK and Pfizer to cut the price of the vaccine in half, to $5 per child (inclusive of all three doses), which is only slightly less than the $6 price target ($2/dose) announced by the Indian manufacturer Serum Institute for a version it plans to bring to market in the next few years.  

Last week, MSF released the second edition of its vaccine pricing report, The Right Shot: Bringing Down Barriers to Affordable and Adapted Vaccines, which shows that in the poorest countries, the price to vaccinate a child is now a colossal 68 times more expensive than it was in 2001, with many parts of the world unable to afford new high-priced vaccines like that against pneumococcal disease. The pneumonia vaccine alone accounts for approximately 45% of the full vaccination package price tag.

Bring vaccine prices down
Photograph by Stephanie Pilick

Following the launch of MSF’s report, GSK and Pfizer reiterated that they have reduced the price of their pneumonia vaccines for the poorest countries to $3.40 per dose (i.e. $10.20 per child for the three doses) and $3.30 per dose (i.e. $9.90 per child for the three doses) from the original price of $3.50 per dose, respectively. This meager decline after the companies have reaped billions globally from the world’s best selling vaccine – as well as a subsidy from Gavi donors which has earned them more than another billion on top of the price per dose Gavi has paid the pharma giants – is not enough. The price of about $10 per child is still far too expensive for many developing countries, which will ultimately have to pay this bill themselves.

“GSK and Pfizer say that their price for the pneumonia vaccine in the poorest countries is a deep discount off the price in wealthy countries, but this just exposes how overpriced these vaccines are to begin with,” said Kate Elder, Vaccines Policy Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign. “What the companies are charging is double the price developing countries should be paying. GSK and Pfizer say they would be losing money at $5 per child for the pneumonia vaccine, to which we say: open your books and show us, show the donors and show the governments how much it really costs to produce this vaccine.”  

“If governments don’t put pressure on companies to make bigger price cuts, countries will keep playing Pharma’s Wheel of Fortune, with GSK and Pfizer the big winners and children the world over losing out.”

Bring vaccine prices down
Photograph by Stephanie Pilick

Notes to editors

Each year, MSF teams vaccinate millions of people, largely as outbreak response to diseases such as measles, meningitis, yellow fever and cholera. MSF also supports routine immunisation activities in projects where we provide healthcare to mothers and children. In 2013 alone, our programmes delivered more than 6.7 million doses of vaccines and immunological products. MSF is scaling up its vaccination activities with a particular focus on improving its work in routine immunisation, as well as extending the package of vaccines used in humanitarian emergencies. In the year 2012–2013, MSF had a 60% increase in the number of doses administered in its projects.

Download the full report here

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