For British drugmaker GSK, just months away from clocking a 100 years in India, the roll-out of shingles vaccine Shingrix will boost its portfolio of adult vaccines in the country.

While chicken pox is often a painful childhood memory, the same virus could surface in adults as well, causing Shingles (herpes zoster). Caused by the reactivation of the virus that causes chicken pox, shingles is a painful condition in adults.

A £3 billion product for GSK, the shingles vaccine is being imported from its plant in Belgium and will be available at healthcare practitioners and certain specialists like dermatologists, across the country, Bhushan Akshikar, Managing Director with GSK Pharmaceuticals told businessline.  The vaccine is priced at a “significantly lower price”than in the US, he said. Two doses of the vaccine in the US is priced at $450.

The Big B, Amitabh Bachchan has been roped in to spread awareness on Shingles.  In fact, the risk of developing shingles increases as the immune system becomes weaker and incapable of mounting a response, as seen in the elderly, for instance. 

The company has also put in place a 200-strong team to support this vaccine, said Akshikar, adding that Covid-19 had in a sense put the spotlight on adult vaccines. GSK’s kitty of adult vaccines include one for influenza, and India was part of the global plan for the RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)vaccine, but at a later date, he said. The RSV vaccine is expected to launch this year in the United States, according to reports.

India is part of 24 global trials (that includes vaccines), Akshikar said, and that paved the way for future launches of these products as well.

Regulatory approvals

Shingrix is the world’s first non-live, recombinant subunit vaccine to be given intramuscularly in two doses. About 260 million adults in India over the age of 50 can be protected from shingles and its complications, said GSK’s India chief, an industry and GSK veteran who was elevated to the top job about five months ago. In fact, interim data recently unveiled by GSK indicated that vaccination with Shingrix could provide at least 10 years of protection, in people aged 50 years and above.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved Shingrix for the prevention of shingles in adults 50 years of age or older in 2017. The European Commission gave its approval for the prevention of shingles in adults 50 years of age or older in 2018.