Posted 22 August 2017
By Zachary Brennan
India's patent office has granted Pfizer a patent on its pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), known as Prevnar 13, after Doctors Without Borders (MSF) challenged the patent’s claims.
The decision follows a campaign from MSF that began in March 2016 to allow for more affordable versions of the vaccine to come to market in India. In October 2016, MSF rejected a Pfizer offer to donate a significant number of PCV doses.
"By giving the pneumonia vaccine away for free, pharmaceutical corporations can use this as justification for why prices remain high for others, including other humanitarian organizations and developing countries that also can’t afford the vaccine," MSF said, noting that Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline are the only producers of the vaccine and since 2009 have earned $36 billion from it.
Pfizer’s patent allows it to continue controlling the PCV market in India until 2026. In the US, patents on the vaccine also expire in 2026 and for Japan patents expire in 2029, according to an SEC filing.
In the EU, however, the blockbuster vaccine, which protects both children and adults from pneumonia, saw one of its patents that covers the combination of the 13 serotype conjugates revoked. The patent is also being legally challenged in South Korea and before the US Patent Trademark Appeal Board.
"In our work, we see many children with life-threatening respiratory infections; many deaths could be prevented if more kids were vaccinated with PCV," said Anas Shorman, a pediatrician working for MSF in Jordan. "More than 50 countries have spoken out against high vaccine prices, and children in countries like Indonesia, Jordan, and Tunisia simply can’t wait any longer to get access to the lifesaving pneumonia vaccine."