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Senators Urge Supply Increase for New Shingles Vaccine Amid Shortage

July 12, 2018

As the demand for the new shingles vaccine Shingrix (zoster vaccine; GlaxoSmithKline) rises, two US Senators urge the drug maker to boost its inventory levels in order to ease the current shortage.

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) recently wrote a letter to the drug maker, and urged Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) CEO, “to take every necessary action to alleviate the shortage.”

Shingrix was originally approved for use last fall. Not long after the approval, the CDC recommended the vaccine be used over the older vaccine, Zostavax (Merck)—which may be a reason demand is so high for the vaccine. According to a representative from GSK, providers are vaccinating for shingles at a much higher rate than prior years. The representative noted that more than 1.5 million patients have received the vaccine.  

The current recommended schedule of the Shingrix vaccine is given in two doses over six months. Ms Klobuchar and Ms Smith noted in their letter that due to the shortage, they fear patients may not be able to complete the two doses due to GSK manufacturing.

In response to the letter from the Senators, GSK said that the company has a "fair and equitable allocation plan across all customer segments." The drug maker plans to ensure that patients will be able to complete the dosing regimen of the vaccine. They have implemented order limits and delays to manage doses. Further, they have limited consumer education activities, such as television ads, until the company can restore its inventory.

In its first quarter, Shingrix generated sales of $150 million, and it is expected that it will generate roughly $600 million this year.

Julie Gould

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