ImageMultinational pharmaceutical companies are now increasingly looking at the Indian vaccine market in a big way. MSD Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Novartis and Pfizer are some of the companies that want to be a part of this story.

MSD Pharmaceuticals, the Indian affiliate of Merck USA, director (sales & marketing) Sanjiv Navangul said: “The vaccines space is very different now as compared to 60 years back. Life expectancy can now increase with the next wave of vaccines coming in. There is a huge opportunity for MNCs in this segment.”

Vaccines, which were perceived as a low margin business, has now emerged as one of the more lucrative segments in the pharmaceutical industry. With a projected compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of at least 16%, the industry will be the fastest growing in the therapy segment. At $900 million in 2006-07, the Indian market represents one of the fastest growing vaccines market globally. This is dominated by paediatric vaccine, which accounts for three-fifths of the market.

‘Global Vaccine Market Forecast to 2012,’ a report from RNCOS, a research firm, says domestic companies, which are seven out of the top 10 players, call the shots here. The trigger for growth will be the changing IPR laws accompanied by higher healthcare expenditure.

This is reflected by a greater MNC presence, with companies like Wyeth, GSK, Sanofi-Aventis and Eli Lilly launching a host of innovative products. Factors such as increasing public and private healthcare spending, the birth of 25 million babies every year and more infectious and chronic diseases, the vaccine market in India is expected to grow by over 10%.

If Pfizer is not selling any of its vaccines in India, its acquisition of Wyeth through brands like Prevnar and HibTITER (haemophilus b conjugate vaccine) will give it a small presence here. “The proposed Wyeth acquisition significantly advances each stated strategic priority that were laid out two years ago and includes, among others things, being a leader in vaccines, biologics and small molecules,” a Pfizer spokesperson said in an email response.

In terms of product portfolio, MSD sells Gardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine and Pneumovax 23, a pneumonia vaccine — both being adult vaccines. Gardasil is priced at Rs 2,800 per dose and for three doses, the outgo for a person is close to Rs 8,500. Pneumovax 23 is priced at Rs 1,200 per dose. “Merck plans to launch its rotavirus vaccine, Rotateq by the year end. On the anvil are the Hepatitis A and Herpes vaccines, which will be launched within the next two-three years,” Mr Navangul added.

GSK, which offers paediatric, adolescent and adult vaccines, is the most active player in this segment. “In 2008, we launched three paediatric vaccines — Infanrix, Boostrix and Rotarix — and we are now in the process of launching our vaccine for cervical cancer — Cervarix,” a GSK spokesperson said. With Indian vaccine makers controlling a large portion of the market, the challenge for MNCs now will be to combat them on the price front.