GSK faces row over vac­cine

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Front Page - By Iain Withers

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.

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