GlaxoSmithKline – the giant British pharmaceutical company – is reportedly set to pocket over £1.8bn from its swine flu vaccination.
It now has orders for 290m doses of its vaccine from around the world, following a further 96m orders from nine different countries last month
The Times recommended the acronym GSK should stand for “Giant Swine flu Killing” from now on.
But while GSK chief Andrew Witty admitted the situation “is going to be positive” for GSK, it is “only because we have put ourselves in a position to do it,” he said.
“And we have done that by taking very significant risks over a long time,” added Witty, “diverting a huge amount of resources and doing the research that nobody else has done, so I’m not going to apologise that the company is going to make a return.”
Witty also pointed out that the company is putting aside 50m doses will for free distribution in poorer countries.
Fellow pharma Roche is expected to make around £1.2bn from sales of Tamiflu, the current antiviral being given to swine flu sufferers. The drug, which is used to treat most other strains of flu as well, is distributed by Roche but is actually made by a smaller manufacturer, Gilead. The need for specialist swine flu drugs as well as Tamiflu is critical though, as cases of resistance from the virus to the traditional drug are arising.
The UK has ordered 130m doses over four years from GSK and one of its rivals Baxter, in a deal is worth over £150m.
GSK’s first batch of its vaccine is expected to begin shipping next month. Other pharmas commissioned by the World Health Organisation to make swine flu drugs include Baxter of the US, the Swiss based Novartis and France’s Sanofi-Aventis.