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Flu vaccine withdraws from market after disagreement over price between Sanofi and health authorities

French health authorities announced Tuesday they would stop selling a flu vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, accusing them of pricing it too low.

“We would like to inform you that the vaccine Efluelda, marketed by the Sanofi laboratory, will be withdrawn from the market in the coming weeks,” the General Directorate of Health, which is dependent on the ministry, said in a message to pharmacists.

This vaccine is intended for people over 65 because it was specifically designed to protect people most at risk of complications. In fact, its dose is four times higher than Sanofi’s classic flu vaccine, VaxigripTetra.

The pharmaceutical group justified its choice to stop selling Efluelda by shifting responsibility to health authorities, which it accuses of setting the price too low.

“The authorities have decided to set the new price at a level lower than the cost of production and distribution of this vaccine,” Sanofi responded in a press release. The group, which also highlights the fact that it has invested 50 million euros in maintaining part of the vaccine’s production in France, “regrets this decision, which makes it impossible to make this vaccine available.”

Controversy about the real benefits of the vaccine

This confrontation comes in the context of a debate about the real benefits of Efluelda compared to traditional flu vaccines. A number of studies have found that this vaccine is most effective in people at risk, but to a relatively limited extent.

“We have more than 10 years of research, including multiple clinical studies, demonstrating the superiority of the Efluelda vaccine compared to standard doses of influenza vaccines against influenza-related hospitalizations and its cardiorespiratory complications,” Sanofi told AFP.

Unconvinced, French health authorities are therefore reluctant, unlike countries such as the US, to recommend this vaccine over another for people over 65, which they believe justifies not paying a higher price for it.

The debate is also part of a wider context in which the pharmaceutical industry regularly believes that France sets drug prices too low.

In this regard, Sanofi on Tuesday received the support of a major pharmacists’ union, the Federation of Pharmaceutical Unions of France (FSPF). “By watching the camera, the government ensures that it is doing everything possible to guarantee access to health products; in fact, it persists in even more restrictive pricing policies and a low-cost health care paradigm,” the union charged in a press release.

The Ministry of Health did not respond to AFP’s question. This decision should not affect the number of flu vaccines available in any case, since Sanofi promises to offer its classic vaccine as a replacement to pharmacies that have pre-ordered Efluelda.

Source: Le Parisien

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