GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has extended its price freeze commitment for the next 10 years on pharmaceuticals sold to developing countries.
This comes after it was revealed the price of immunisations had risen 68-fold since 2001, in a damning report by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Countries who graduate from the Gavi support scheme, which helps developing countries pay for immunisations, will now not pay any higher prices for pharmaceuticals until 10 years after they leave the programme.
CEO of GSK, Sir Andrew Witty, said: “Our extended price-freeze is designed to bring vaccine price stability for graduating countries, ensuring sustainability of the Gavi model and helping more children benefit from national immunisation programmes.
“Over the past 15 years, Gavi has helped to protect many hundreds of millions of children in the world’s poorest countries from infectious diseases and has doubtless saved millions of lives.”
In 2001, the cost of immunising a child against tuberculosis, measles, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio was £0.44 – rising to £21.24 for 12 diseases.
The cost of a full immunisation package has risen 68-fold since 2001, with more than 6.7m vaccinations were delivered by MSF in 2013.
A Pfizer spokeperson said: “MSF’s vaccine pricing report fails to recognise the public health value pneumococcal vaccines have created by reducing the burden of disease and saving lives – something impossible to achieve before their introduction.
“As opposed to criticising pricing as if it is the sole barrier to access, it is vital to continue an open dialogue about how best to achieve an environment in which all partners are incentivised to make significant contributions in our shared pursuit of vaccinating every child.”
Director of policy and analysis at MSF access campaign, Rohit Malpani, said: “A handful of big pharmaceutical companies are overcharging donors and developing countries for vaccines that earn them billions of dollars in wealthy countries.
“We think its time for GSK and Pfizer to do their part to make vaccines more affordable for countries in the long-term.”
The Vaccine Alliance, Gavi, subsidies the cost of vaccines for many developing and middle-income countries, however, due to rising economic gains, may of these countries are soon not able to qualify for help under this scheme.
Vaccines policy advisor for MSF, Kate Edler, said: “We have an irrational situation where some developing countries like Morocco and Tunisia are paying more for the pneumococcal vaccine than France does.
“More than a quarter of the countries currently eligible for donor support through Gavi, will lose it starting next year, after which they will be left to pay about $10 per child for the pneumococcal vaccine, which is unaffordable for many countries.
Once a company loses the support from Gavi, its bill for new vaccines rise by over 1,500%.
“We need to put public health before profit—life-saving vaccines for children shouldn’t be big business in poor countries,” Elder said.