Struggling Vaccines From Novartis Turn Into Sales Boon for Glaxo | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Outbreaks of the meningitis B disease in the U.S., along with the social-media frenzy that followed the death of a British toddler, have helped propel sales of GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s vaccine well past initial projections for its use.


The U.K. drugmaker is poised to deliver nine times the 2016 sales Novartis AG had forecast for vaccines including the meningitis B shot Bexsero, said Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer at Glaxo’s vaccines division. Glaxo acquired the business in March 2015, and revenue for vaccines last year was five times what Novartis had estimated, Breuer said.


Glaxo negotiated a price with the U.K. that paved the way for the world’s first infant immunization program using Bexsero last year. Fresh efficacy and safety data from that program are set to be presented next month at a conference in Manchester, England. That may persuade the U.S. and other countries to start their own mass vaccination campaigns against the rare but serious infection.


“When this new evidence becomes available, public health agencies will re-evaluate,” Breuer said. “But I don’t want to make any predictions.”


Meningitis B infection can cause devastating effects in children and young adults including brain damage and loss of limbs. There have been seven college outbreaks in the U.S. since 2009, with one this year at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The death of a British girl in February and the photographs of her that went viral spurred public demand for wider vaccination in the U.K.


In the U.S., where the majority of meningitis B cases occur in older teenagers and young adults, the vaccine is approved for people ages 10 to 25. In Europe, it’s approved for use in children aged two months and older. The U.K.’s National Health Service covers vaccination for infants under 1.


Glaxo is exploring ways to expand the use of the vaccine, including a large study to test whether Bexsero can prevent carriage of meningitis B in teenagers, who frequently have the bacteria in the backs of their nose and throat.