Bharat Biotech's diarrhoea vaccine gets WHO nod

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on January 24, 2018

ROTAVAC, priced lower than competing vaccines of global biggies, can now be exported through UN agencies

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has awarded pre-qualification to the developing world’s first rotavirus diarrhoea vaccine, ROTAVAC, developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech. The recognition will allow UN agencies and Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, to purchase the vaccine from Bharat Biotech at significantly lower prices than those sourced from global pharmaceutical majors and make it available in other developing regions including Africa where diarrhoea kills thousands of children every year.

“Not only will ROTAVAC have a market in Gavi-supported countries where it will be priced much lower than similar vaccines supplied by companies such as GSK and Merck, there is also a huge market in non-Gavi countries such as South Africa where the vaccine is now available at a very high price,” Duncan Steele from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation told BusinessLine.

Bharat Bio pricing

The 2015 rotavirus weighted average price for Gavi was $ 4.80 per course, with the price for Rotarix (produced by GSK) at $ 4.17 per course and the price for RotaTeq (produced by Merck) at $ 10.50 per course, as per Gavi’s web-site. Bharat Biotech plans to supply ROTOVAC for Gavi countries at $ 1 per vaccine which would add up to $3 per course.

“In a non-Gavi country such as South Africa, one course of rotavirus can be priced up to $ 20. If the Indian company can work out an arrangement with such countries at even a price as high as $5 per course, there could be a big demand,” Steele said.

In India, ROTAVAC, the vaccine to prevent infant deaths and hospitalisations due to rotavirus diarrhoea, was launched in March 2015 and introduced into the universal immunisation programme. At present, the programme has been introduced in nine states including Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Jharkhand, too, would soon get included.

“Bharat Biotech’s track record of life saving vaccines is a testimony to the company’s long-standing commitment to make affordable vaccines for the developing world. ROTAVAC has been supplied to low income countries at $1 per dose, with the feasibility for further reduing the price by 30 per cent based on the procurement of around 100 million doses for these countries, said Krishna Ella, CMD, Bharat Biotech International.

ROTAVAC was developed as a result of a multi-country and multi partner collaborative model for over two decades, Ella said. The partnership included the Department of Biotechnology, the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Indian Institute of Science, the All India Institute of Medical Science, the Christian Medical College, King Edwards Memorial Hospital, the Translational Health Sciences and Technology Institute , the Society for Applied Studies, the US National Institutes of Health, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins University and PATH.

Published on January 24, 2018

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