Pharma giant Pfizer said Thursday it is ceasing vaccine sales operations in China after the government failed to renew an import license for one of its top-selling treatments.
The world’s second-biggest drug maker, however, indicated that it intends to launch the world’s most widely used vaccine, Prevenar 13, in China at some point in future.
Pfizer’s import license expired
Pfizer said it has stopped selling its Prevenar 7 pneumonia vaccine in China after its import license expired. A Pfizer spokeswomen declined to disclose why the vaccine’s license wasn’t renewed, and China’s Food and Drug Administration could not be reached for immediate comment.
The world’s second-biggest drug maker by revenue said that it stopped sales of the vaccine immediately. Prevenar 7 protects against seven strains of pneumococcal disease, the most common bacterial cause of pneumonia and a top cause of death and hospitalization worldwide. The bacteria also cause children’s ear infections and other illness.
The U.S. drug maker, the only company selling the drug in China, anticipates a shortage of the vaccine in China. Pfizer has multiple versions of the vaccine, including Prevenar 7 and the updated Prevenar 13.
Pfizer spokeswoman Trupti Wagh said the drug maker would work with Chinese regulators to bring Prevenar13, an updated version of the vaccine, to market at some point in future, though no clear time frame has been spelled out. Prevenar 13 is the world’s most widely used vaccine.
Wagh said in a statement: “Based on a careful assessment of this situation, we have decided to cease our vaccines commercial operations in China at this time, effective immediately”.
According to Pfizer’s annual report, the drug maker’s global revenues from the Prevenar family of products, which includes Prevenar 13, was $4.5 billion last year, up 12% compared to 2013.
Drug makers face growing difficulties in China
Pfizer’s latest move won’t affect its other operations in China. The U.S. drug maker has over 9,000 employees in China, while its vaccines sales team has around 200 staff.
Pfizer’s move comes as drug makers face growing difficulties obtaining approvals for medicines in China. Industry insiders point out that as the market for drugs has expanded, the government has grown more stringent in its oversight. Some experts say China’s Food and Drug Administration also lacks the manpower to approve drugs, creating a backlog of approvals.
China is the world’s No.2 drug market and the country is a magnet for global drug makers, medical device firms and hospital operators, all keen to get a slice of a health care pie estimated to hit $1 trillion by 2020. According to IMS Health, China’s drug spending alone is set to hit $185 billion by 2018.
In 2013, Chinese authorities visited an office of German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, making it the latest target in a probe of foreign drug firms over high prices.
As reported by ValueWalk, a Shanghai court convicted two GlaxoSmithKline plc corporate investigators, a UK citizen and his American wife last year for illegally purchasing personal information on Chinese citizens.