GSK faces row over vaccine
DRUGS giant Glaxosmithkline faces mounting questions over shortages of its vaccine for the deadly liver disease hepatitis B that have led to rationing in the UK, at a time when its supplies to the US appear to be unaffected.
The disparity has led to suggestions from liver disease campaigners that GSK may be “prioritising” the massive American market.
Earlier this month Public Health England (PHE) took the rare step of advising doctors to limit prescription of the vaccine, citing a “global shortage”.
But The Daily Telegraph has learnt shortages of the vaccine are not as widespread as suggested.
Hepatitis B is spread by bodily fluids and is considered a “silent killer” leading to 900,000 global deaths a year, although it is more prevalent in the developing world and is rare in the UK. For comparison HIV causes 1m deaths a year. While the risk is low in the UK, charities and academics voice concerns about the “unprecedented” rationing.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), which is responsible for monitoring stocks of vaccines worldwide, says there is no global shortage.
Andrew Langford, chief executive of charity the British Liver Trust, called for more clarity from GSK on what had gone wrong. He said: “If GSK is prioritising supply to the US I’d like to know why they’ve made that decision.”
A spokesman for GSK said the company had a global shortage of hepatitis vaccines but did not comment on the apparent disparity in supply between the UK and US.
PHE said it had no evidence to suggest GSK was favouring supplying the US over the UK.