Sanofi-aventis to donate 100 million doses of pandemic influenza vaccine to WHO

Sanofi-aventis CEO Chris Viehbacher announced Wednesday that the company plans to make a donation of 100 million doses of influenza vaccine to the World Health Organization to help developing countries confront the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic. Speaking at the Pacific Health Summit, Viehbacher stated that "the future of our industry is linked to the healthcare solutions that will be found for emerging countries," and added that the donation is being made in support of WHO Director-General Margaret Chan's "call for common action to fight the pandemic."

The donation "is tailored to respond to the 2009 influenza [A (H1N1)] pandemic" and includes a commitment made by the company in 2008 in the context of the H5N1 influenza pandemic threat, sanofi-aventis explained. The drugmaker indicated that once production of an H1N1 vaccine begins, its vaccines unit, Sanofi Pasteur, will reserve 10 percent of its output for the WHO to help address the pandemic in developing countries. Sanofi-aventis will also adopt a tiered-pricing policy for these nations in the event that all of Sanofi Pasteur's manufacturing capacity becomes committed to production of pandemic vaccine.

Currently, sanofi-aventis manufactures about 225 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine and Viehbacher estimated that the company could increase production to at least 800 million doses of a vaccine designed to protect against the latest pandemic strain.

In related news, GlaxoSmithKline has already stated that it intends to donate 50 million doses of vaccine to the WHO. Meanwhile, Novartis indicated recently that it would not donate pandemic vaccine, but spokesperson Eric Althoff commented that the company may consider alternative arrangements, including pricing, to ensure that developing nations have access.

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