Vaccine majors have immense opportunities to explore and potential to transform
Recently, Panacea Biotec, India' s second largest producer of vaccines, bagged an order worth Rs 187.61 crore from the Indian government for the supply of 345 million doses of trivalent oral polio vaccine (tOPV) and bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV). The same has to be supplied between December 2012 and May 2013. The order is to meet the requirements of national immunization days (NIDs) and supplementary national immunization days (SNIDs). The deals are an indication that the Indian government has stepped up its dependency on the Indian companies.
The policymakers in fact have always been worried about the lack of vaccination alternatives and the high prices from the multinationals. Yet, the vaccine market at two percent penetration as McKinsey report puts it, is significantly under-penetrated. It estimates the Indian vaccine market at around $900 million and it is poised to grow to $4.6-billion revenue by 2017. With the opportunities wide open, the vaccine manufacturers are aiming to consolidate their positions.
Local companies play epochal role
The model that most Indian vaccine makers follow is similar to what domestic generic drug companies have been doing for a long time. Indian vaccines, alike the Indian generic medicines are also being projected as low-cost alternatives to high-priced vaccines produced by global majors.
Every year, the rotavirus causes fatal diarrhoea that kills around 500,000 children under five years. Among the key companies, the vaccines that are currently undergoing phase III clinical trials for safety and efficacy in 8,000 children and, along with vaccines from Serum Institute of India and Shantha Biotechnics, are expected to hit the market in 2015. These vaccines will bring the price of vaccinating a child to $3, down from the current $7.5 per dose. Bharat Biotech had announced that it will price rotavac, India's first indigenously developed rotavirus vaccine at $1 per dose. According to Dr Krishna Ella, chairman of Bharat Biotech, "When this company had initiated the development of Rotavac a decade ago, a promise was made that the vaccine, as and when approved, will be priced below $1 a dose for global supplies." Dr Ella feels that the competition will always be helpful in reducing the prices further.
Serum Institute of India, one of the country's leading vaccine producers, claims that two of every three children immunized in the world is vaccinated by a vaccine, which is manufactured by the company. The company's products, used in 140 countries, are known for their low cost. Last year, Serum Institute lowered the price of its pentavalent vaccine to $1.75 per dose, the lowest price available globally.
Panacea Biotec has committed to lower its prices of vaccines by up to 15 percent. The company introduced EnivacHB (hepatitis B) in 1997. The superior manufacturing process lead to better immunogenicity proven in clinical trials. The unique prefilled syringe ready-to-use device (ENivac HB Safety) ensured safe injection practices advocated by World Health Organization (WHO). The EasyFive (pentavalent vaccine - DTP-HIB-HepB) was introduced by the company in 2005. The first fully liquid (wP) pentavalent vaccine was introduced in 2007. Dr Rajesh Jain, joint managing director, Panacea Biotec, says, "We have utilized the unique Easy-Track mobile sms service to remind the parents for timely immunization of the child and also Easy-Vaccination mobile and web-based service to educate the customers about vaccination online."