Glaxo Mum on Swine Flu Vaccine Price

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) again refused to disclose yesterday how much the UK Government is paying for as many as 132 million doses of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine it has ordered from the group.

Europe's biggest drugs company, which along with rival Baxter (BAX) will supply the Government with the vaccine, said at the time of its second-quarter results in July that it was charging developed countries €7 a dose for the treatment. The British Government is getting a discount, but neither the company, nor the Department of Health is prepared to say how much GSK is earning from Britain.

GSK also said yesterday that the first stage of an initial two-stage clinical trial into the vaccine had shown that "after one dose the candidate vaccine can provide a strong immune response which exceeds the immunogenicity criteria as defined by international licensing authorities for a pandemic influenza vaccine".

The trial involves 130 volunteers aged between 18 and 60. GSK said yesterday that it plans 16 studies for the treatment, involving 9,000 people, which a spokesperson for the group said would take a number of months to complete.

European regulators are expected to fast-track the vaccine, however, and sanction its use as early as next month as fears grow that there will be a spike in the infection rate as the winter flu season approaches.

The Department of Health, which is responsible for negotiating with the drugs companies to secure the supply of swine flu vaccine, said yesterday that it will spend £155.4m on the vaccine over four years, but it also refused to disclose how much it was paying per dose, or how much of the 132 million doses of vaccine GSK and Baxter were each supplying.

"We cannot divulge the figure for the actual vaccine procurement as it would violate confidentiality clauses in our contracts. The manufacturers have quite reasonably insisted on these as if it is possible to calculate the amount per unit we paid for vaccine it could prejudice their negotiations with other countries," a spokesman for the Department of Health said.

GSK has already said that it charges developed countries €7 a dose, and less, on a sliding scale, for emerging market governments. The group said yesterday that it has now had orders for 291 million doses of vaccine from 60 governments, and is still in negotiations with others. The group has also agreed to supply the World Health Organisation with 50 million free doses.

Analysts expect GSK to earn as much as £500m by the end of the year on sales of its swine flu vaccine. Some say that the number is a conservative and that the group's earnings could top £1bn.