Philippines ups pressure on Sanofi over dengue vaccine

pharmafile | December 8, 2017 | News story | Medical Communications Sanofi, biotech, drugs, pharma, pharmaceutical 

Since Sanofi released further data from a six-year study which showed that the risk of a severe dengue reaction is increased when its Dengvaxia vaccine is given to dengue-naïve individuals, there has been a national outcry in the Philippines.

The government of the Philippines had been the most enthusiastic country to encourage immunisation with the vaccine. In total, an estimated 830,000 children above the ages of nine years old have been given the vaccine – up from an earlier approximation of 734,000.

This was part of a national immunisation program that cost the government 3.5 bilion pesos (£51 million) and this came on top of the cost of procuring the vaccines, which came to 3 billion pesos (£44 million).

Now, Health Secretary of the Philippines, Francisco Duque, told reporters that it would be seeking back the latter investment from the company. He told reporters, as noted by Reuters, “We will demand the refund of the 3 billion [pesos] paid for the Dengvaxia and [demand] that Sanofi set up an indemnification fund to cover the hospitalization and medical treatment of all children who might have severe dengue”.

This came after the previous day Duque had told reporters that it was likely that the situation would end up in court, to determine whether Sanofi knew of the potential for the vaccine to be dangerous to certain individuals.

The situation is a disaster for Sanofi, the vaccine had already struggled to convince payers that it was an effective vaccine – only reaching sales of €55 million in its first year of sales. Sanofi had expected the vaccine to become a blockbuster seller, after it had spent €1.2 billion in the development of the product.

However, the situation has changed to one of damage limitation; further sales of the product are now unlikely, with the furore in Philippines likely dissuading any further countries from contemplating taking on the vaccine.

The problem for the company is that news keep emerging from the Philippines that places the efficacy of the vaccine under even greater scrutiny.

Health officials in the country announced this week that there had been one case of a child, from Tarlac, who had been given the vaccine still managed to contract a severe case of dengue only months after having received her final dose of the vaccine.

Ben Hargreaves

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