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Lower Vaccine Costs for Developing Nations

By: Steve Soman, PharmD

India has become a powerhouse in pharmaceutical manufacturing, often supplying generic alternatives at a fraction of the brand name cost to the developing world. Cheaper alternatives make costly drugs more affordable for poorer nations and NGOs.1 Indian manufacturer Biological E. Limited, a biotech firm based in Hyderabad India, signed a deal with GAVI Alliance (formerly known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation), a bulk purchasing organization for poorer nations, to sell its five-vaccines-in-one product for a half the price. GAVI stated that the pentavalent vaccine will cost $1.19 per dose, compared to  $2.17 per dose that they paid in 2012, potentially saving it up to $150 million over the next four years.2 The pentavalent vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib).2,3,4

Already, this news has a profound impact around the world. In Haiti, the vaccine can save the lives of 3,000 children every year.3 The ability of GAVI to acquire these products at a reduced price may enable it to distribute these products at a lower cost or for free in the poorest of nations such as in wartorn Somalia.4 “The pentavalent vaccine is essential to fight childhood illness and reduce child mortality,” says Jeannot François, Director of the Ministry of Health’s Expanded Programme on Immunization. François continues, “Although it is too soon to measure the impact, early results show that communication and social mobilization have been effective, since many parents are now interested in a vaccine that was previously available only in the private sector. Now it is available free of charge for everyone.”3

Availability of the vaccine at discounted prices allows poorer nations to subsidize costs for its citizens, enabling millions of poverty stricken families to vaccinate their children. In the case of Haiti, the free vaccine will enable infants to get vaccinated at 6, 10 and 14 weeks of age, as three doses are required to achieve lifelong immunity.4 In Haiti alone, the Ministry of Health hopes to vaccinate approximately 288,000 children under the age of 1, and thus significantly reduce child mortality from preventable diseases.3

The reduction of price by Biological E. Limited enables organizations like GAVI to procure and distribute these vaccines to vast regions of the world at a fraction of the cost, and to cure people from diseases. The reduced cost of production and labor has resulted in Indian companies expanding rapidly into western markets as well as seen by some well known generic Indian manufactureres such as Sun Pharmaceuticals, Abbott Labs, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Ranbaxy, Lupin, Aurobindo, Cadila Healthcare, Jubilant Lifesciences, and Glenmark Pharmaceuticals.5  Similar actions from various Indian manufacturers , such as CIPLA, continue to solidify India’s position as the “pharmacy of the third world nation” while saving countless lives. 1


  1. Lofgren, H. Pharmaceutical companies putting health of world’s poor at risk. Guardian News UK. July 26, 2012. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/jul/26/pharmaceutical-companies-health-worlds-poor-risk. Accessed June 6, 2013.
  2. Indian Supply Drives Down the Cost of Childhood Vaccine. MedScape Pharmacists News. April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/802799. Accessed June 6, 2013.
  3. New vaccine protects Haitian children from five diseases. World Health Organization. April 2013. Available at: http://www.who.int/features/2013/haiti_pentavalent_vaccine/en/index.html. Accessed June 6, 2013.
  4. Bile, K. Introduction of Hepatitis B and Haemophilus Influenzae Vaccines in Somalia. Hiiraan Online News. May 19, 2013. Available at: http://hiiraan.com/op4/2013/may/29427/introduction_of_hepatitis_b_and_haemophilus_influenzae_vaccines_in_somalia.aspx. Accessed June 6, 2013.
  5. APGENCO. List of Short Listed Pharmaceutical Companies. June 30, 2013. http://www.apgenco.gov.in/administrator/uploadedfiles/Pharmaceutical%2082%20Companies.pdf
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