Bloomberg — Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. will sell its dengue vaccine at a steep discount in emerging markets, part of its plan to make sure that people most vulnerable to the life-threatening disease will have access to the immunization.
The cost for Qdenga in Indonesia will be about one-third its European price, far lower than many other innovative vaccines, Takeda Chief Executive Officer Christophe Weber said in an interview. It will also sell the shot at a discount in Brazil, one of the largest countries where the disease is endemic to approve the vaccine.
Qdenga is one of the first innovative vaccines that primarily targets developing countries, Weber said, and it’s difficult to ensure access without cutting the cost.
Takeda’s recommended retail price for a course of two shots is about $80 out of pocket for Indonesians — compared with $238 in Germany, Weber said. It will be available in the Southeast Asian nation, the world’s fourth-most populous and a place where dengue runs rampant, in April or May, he said, with May being more likely.
“We really wanted to make sure that significant part of the population can afford it,” he said.
Even so, $80 per course could still be out of reach for many Indonesians, especially people living in rural areas who are most at risk of the disease. Indonesia had gross national income per capita of $3,870 in 2021, according to the World Bank.
About half of the world’s population lives in areas at risk of the mosquito-borne disease. Asia represents up to 70% of the global burden, according to the World Health Organization. Scientists have warned that climate change will likely hasten the spread of the mosquito species that carries the virus. An uptick in international travel as the world recovers from Covid will also increase exposure to it.
Slashing the price of Qdenga depending on developing countries’ economic status and household income is a part of Takeda’s strategy to boost access, Weber said. Globally, pharmaceutical companies are under pressure to sell vaccines and drugs more cheaply in low- and middle-income countries than in developed nations — so-called tiered pricing — to ensure equity in accessing life-saving treatments.
The Tokyo-based company projects the vaccine could eventually generate $1.6 billion in annual sales.
Takeda’s shot can be used in wider swath of the population than Dengvaxia, the vaccine made by rival Sanofi that suffered a major setback in 2017. People who haven’t had dengue before they get the immunization are more likely to develop severe disease if they subsequently become infected.
Qdenga was first granted approval in Indonesia in August, followed by the EU in December and Brazil in March. It’s also approved in the UK, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein. Takeda has only launched the vaccine in Germany and Austria thus far. It’s approved for individuals four years of age and older.
Takeda will be negotiating with the Indonesian and Brazilian governments to get Qdenga into public immunization programs and boost sales volume, Weber said. He estimated the process will take several years. In the meantime, the company plans to build capacity to manufacture 100 million doses per year — enough for 50 million people — in Germany and through contract manufacturers, he said.
Although most dengue infections are mild, typically causing flu-like symptoms, some people suffer sudden fever, headache, rashes and pain in their muscles and joints. In some cases, it’s so severe that the disease is referred to as “breakbone fever.”
About 500,000 dengue patients a year require hospitalization from complications that can result in shock and internal bleeding. Roughly 20,000 people die, primarily children.
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