With one jab, you will now be able to prevent nothing less than five diseases. Key vaccine producers of the country are banking heavily on five-in-one vaccines that can make fighting diseases a less time-consuming and less painful affair.
Called penta vaccines, these cocktail concoctions are set to define the future of the vaccines industry in the country, which, according to estimates, is growing at a compounded annual rate of 15-20% and is expected to cross $1 billion by 2012.
Major domestic players such as Serum Institute, Shantha Biotech, Panacea Biotech, as well as multinationals like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur all have penta vaccines in their products basket.
The latest to jump the bandwagon is Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, which has launched a five-in-one vaccine that targets diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus (DPT), hepatitis B, and haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).
Penta vaccines by Panacea, Serum, and Shantha target DPT, hepatitis B, and Hib, while that by GSK is a combination of DPT, hepatitis B and injectible polio vaccines. On the other hand, Sanofi's offering is a combination of DPT, Hib, and injectible polio vaccines.
Industry experts say that penta vaccines mark a shift in vaccine makers' strategy. Earlier, they focussed on vaccines for only one or two diseases or at best, three-in-one products. They now see these multi-disease vaccines driving their growth in the future.
As per data by financial services firm Batlivala & Karani Securities India, the global demand for all combination vaccines was at $600 million in 2005, and is expected to grow to $1.6 billion by 2012.
Sarabjit Kour Nangra, vice president (research) at broking house Angel Broking, said, "Penta vaccines are value for money and there is a market for it." Ranjit Kapadia, head (private client group) at broking firm Prabhudas Lilladher, added that by producing penta vaccines, manufacturers save on cost of marketing, packaging, and transportation. Besides, such vaccines are packed in one vial, meaning cost savings on syringes.
Nitin Shah, a consultant at PD Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai and past president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), said that going forward, penta vaccines may be included in the government's National Immunisation Programme (NIP), which offers free vaccination for children. Under the NIP, children are given vaccines for hepatitis B, oral polio vaccine, Hib, measles, DPT, and bacillus calmette-guerin (BCG). "In the private market, combination vaccines are cheaper by at least 15-20% compared with standalone vaccines," added Shah. Moreover, penta vaccines mean fewer pricks and so are patient-friendly, he said. Fewer jabs also mean lowered risk of infection and side effects such as fever, which usually accompany vaccination. "So the demand for these penta vaccines would only increase," said a biotech industry watcher from an equity firm on the condition of anonymity.
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