Seeking to defuse a nasty row, Pfizer (PFE) has lowered the price of its pneumococcal vaccine to non-governmental organizations that supply poor countries.
The company will sell the newest version of its Prevnar 13 vaccine for $3.10 a dose, which means the three-dose treatment to vaccinate a child will cost $9.30. This is the same price that Gavi, an international public-private partnership, has paid since last year. Gavi acts as a bridge between drug makers and philanthropic groups in negotiating supplies for 57 poor and developing countries.
Until now, though, Pfizer had not made the same offer to non-governmental organizations or civil society groups. And the price drop comes after a protracted dispute with Doctors Without Borders, in particular. The nonprofit has repeatedly criticized Pfizer for failing to lower its price and make it more widely available to humanitarian organizations that work in poor and developing countries.
Doctors Without Borders has aggressively pushed Pfizer to cut its price to $5 per child, arguing the company was overcharging both donors and developing countries for a vaccine that has generated billions of dollars in sales in wealthy nations. In the first nine months of this year, the Prevnar vaccine generated about $4.3 billion in sales.
In a report issued last year, Doctors Without Borders maintained pneumococcal vaccines were 68 times more expensive than in 2001 and attributed 45 percent of the increased cost to pricing. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) also sells a vaccine but recently agreed to lower its price and make it available to humanitarian groups. Pneumococcal disease kills about 1 million children per year, mostly in poor and developing nations.
Last year, Pfizer offered the vaccine to Doctors Without Borders for $15.60 a dose, but Kate Elder, the group’s vaccines policy adviser, said the offer was refused. Last month, the group rejected a donation of 1 million doses, and Jason Cone, the executive director, penned a blog post in which he argued he had to decline the offer so that he would not “undermine long-term efforts” to obtain a better price.
He greeted the Pfizer price cut cautiously. While praising the lower price, Cone continued to chastise the company for not dropping the price more.
“This is definitely a step in the right direction,” he said in a statement.
Elder added that, “we called for $5 per child for the three needed doses and we still think the price is still too high and should be reduced across the board for all governments that can’t afford it.” Nonetheless, Doctors Without Borders does plan to accept the offer once details are reviewed, such as any stipulations on the amount of vaccine that must be purchased.
A Pfizer spokeswoman wrote us that the World Health Organization is “establishing a new validation process to identify which organizations and situations should be considered eligible for pricing. Once finalized, which is expected to happen shortly, this process will be used as guidance for identifying eligible parties.”