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Profits up for flu vaccine makers
By Ding Qingfen (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-16 07:55

Profits up for flu vaccine makers

Primary school students receive injections of anti-H1N1 influenza medicine in Hunan province. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has received orders for 1.2 million packs of its anti-H1N1 influenza medicine, Relenza, from the Chinese government. [Asianewsphoto]

International pharmaceutical companies are cashing in on China's efforts to protect its people from the H1N1 pandemic with anti-influenza medicines.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a leading international pharmaceutical company and China's largest by sales volume, received approval from the State Food and Drug Administration for its anti-H1N1 influenza medicine to enter the China market in July.

Since then, GSK has prepared 1.2 million packs of the anti-H1N1 influenza medicine called Relenza available for governments at all levels in China. The governments are storing the anti-virus in anticipation of a massive flu outbreak in coming months.

"GSK expects very strong demand for Relenza this year in China," Mark Reilly, general manager of GSK China, told China Business Weekly.

Profits up for flu vaccine makers

Chen Zhaorong, area medical manager at GSK China, also predicted that GSK will receive more orders in the months ahead.

"Compared with that from the other nations worldwide, China's orders are still small (for GSK)," Chen said.

Actually, the production capacity for Relenza is around 60 million packs. GSK has contracts in place to supply Relenza to over 60 economies. Of which, at least 10 percent of its new production have been allocated for developing nations.

But Chinese rules require that only governments can purchase the anti-H1N1 flu medicine. Relenza is still unavailable for sale to consumers.

As the weather turns colder, China is now bracing for a major H1N1 flu case outbreak. As of Nov 11, more than 62,871 cases were reported in 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions of the Chinese mainland. About 32,000 cases were reported just since Oct 12.

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"Many regions are entering the traditional period for possible flu outbreaks, which will last for two to three months, and prevention and control work is becoming tougher," said Liang Wannian, vice director of the health emergency office under the Ministry of Health.

The Chinese government plans to allocate 1.09 billion yuan ($159.65 million) for prevention and treatment of the flu, including purchases of vaccinations, anti-viral medicines and medical instruments.

The huge investment is attracting global players like GSK. To meet the growing demand for anti-virals in China, GSK is considering investing in a manufacturing facility to produce Relenza for the country, said the GSK's Reilly, declining to elaborate.

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