France cancels 50 million flu shot ordersPARIS (Reuters) - France has canceled over half the flu vaccines it ordered to combat the H1N1 flu virus, Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said on Monday, in an effort to head off criticism after reserving too many shots.
France ordered the vaccinations from Sanofi-Pasteur, a unit of Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Baxter International.
The government estimated 94 million individual shots were needed, thinking that everyone would need two jabs for immunity against the illness.
Doctors now say a single vaccination is sufficient, meaning that France, with a population of some 65 million has a massive oversupply and is already trying to sell on some of the surplus shots it has received.
"I have canceled 50 million doses," Bachelot said on TF1 television.
"These orders had not been paid for or delivered so they are canceled," she added.
The Health Ministry said it had originally bought the 94 vaccines at a cost of 869 million euros. Bachelot said the canceled order would save more than 350 million euros.
Opposition politicians have criticized the government, saying it has wasted money and helped drugs companies. Socialist Party spokesman Benoit Hamon said large pharmaceutical firms were "the big winners in this affair."
A Sanofi-Aventis spokesman said on Monday that the company and the government had started a review of a contract for 28 million vaccine doses before the Christmas holidays.
About half of the doses had been delivered he said but it was premature to comment on the implication of the canceled order for the company. Some five million people in France have so far been vaccinated against H1N1, health officials say.
The flu virus has killed an estimated 198 people on mainland France, according to data released on December 29, but doctors have said new infections have fallen sharply in recent weeks.
(Reporting by Thierry Leveque and Noelle Mennella; Writing by Anna Willard; Editing by Jon Boyle)
Update: YES, OTHER SUCKERS ARE BUYING: IS ISRAEL AMONG THEM? So much money to be made!
French move fuels fears for flu vaccine sales* French cancellation highlights European over-supply
* Move follows cutbacks by Germany, Spain and Switzerland
* Sanofi says new orders will make up for lost French sales
* Shares in vaccine makers Glaxo, Sanofi, Novartis slide
By Ben Hirschler and Caroline Jacobs
LONDON/PARIS, Jan 5 (Reuters) - France's decision to cancel over half the swine flu vaccines it ordered has increased concerns that manufacturers' revenues from the H1N1 pandemic will be lower than forecast.
Experts had initially anticipated that everyone would need two shots of vaccine for immunity against the H1N1 virus, but a single dose of vaccine is now deemed sufficient for adults.
That, combined with scepticism about the need for immunisation among the general population, has resulted in reduced demand for vaccines across Europe.
The French government said on Monday it aimed to cancel 50 million of the 94 million doses ordered from Sanofi-Aventis
A government spokesman said on Tuesday it had already cancelled 9 million doses from Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines unit of Sanofi-Aventis, and was in talks about cancelling the remaining excess supply from other companies.
The decision follows similar moves last month by Germany, Spain and Switzerland to try and cut deliveries, return unwanted stocks to suppliers or sell them on to other countries, due to a low uptake at home.
Morgan Stanley analysts said the latest French cutbacks highlighted declining demand for H1N1 vaccines and translated into a modest near-term risk to earnings at Glaxo, Sanofi and Novartis.
"Longer term, the evident overcapacity with H1N1 should limit any multiple expansion related to income associated with pandemic flu," they added.
Shares in Glaxo were down 2.2 percent at 1310 pence while Sanofi's were down 1.6 percent at 55.82 euros by 1118 GMT. Novartis was down 1.7 percent at 54.10 Swiss francs, also hit by concerns over dilution following its offer to buy out minorities in eye care group Alcon
Sales of H1N1 vaccines have been a windfall for drugmakers since mid-2009 as governments have built up stockpiles, with Glaxo expected to be the single biggest beneficiary with anticipated sales of some $3.5 billion by the end of the first quarter of 2010, according to industry analysts.
Sanofi and Novartis have been forecast to book around $1 billion and $600 million apiece.
The latest cancellations in Europe could trim those numbers, although there is still outstanding demand from other parts of the world.
A spokesman for Sanofi Pasteur said his company expected to replace the lost sales in France with other orders.
"We see additional orders from countries we were not in position to supply before," he said.
"We still see virus circulation going in many regions of the world. As it goes away from the north there will be strong reasons for governments in the south to have H1N1 vaccinations," the Sanofi Pasteur spokesman said. He declined to disclose the countries interested in Sanofi's vaccine.
Glaxo declined to comment on the commercial impact of the latest developments but a spokeswoman said the British group was in discussions with governments about orders. (Editing by Greg Mahlich)
January 6, 2010
"Sanofi Pasteur, which accepted the order of half of the 94 million vaccines, ststed it is willing to rethink the contract, if the government so requests. Part of the vaccines has not yet been delivered. Paris defends itself, saying authorities of Qatar and Egypt want to buy the vaccine, but this is a very small part of them. In France 200 people died of the swine flu, many times less than that every year die of ordinary flu. ....
Flu Vaccine Close-Out, The Flu Case