Sanofi is in the middle of a heated controversy in the Philippines that shows no signs of dying out anytime soon.
Over the last few days the pharma giant has had to reject calls for reimbursing the government for the cost of hundreds of thousands of doses of Dengvaxia. And public health officials raised a ruckus by pointing to several deaths among children which they say could have been triggered by the vaccine. In the meantime there are signs that the panic over Dengvaxia has raised fears about all such jabs, leading to a sharp drop in badly needed vaccinations.
“Agreeing to refund the used doses of Dengvaxia would imply that the vaccine is ineffective, which is not the case,” Sanofi explained in a statement to the local press.
Philippine authorities are prepping a case against Sanofi on one death, saying that a 10-year-old girl had been killed by the vaccine. And an expert panel pointed to three deaths they feel could be linked to Dengvaxia.
Sanofi triggered the furor by conceding recently that when you give Dengvaxia to a child who has not already been exposed to dengue, it raises the risk that their first infection in response to wild-type dengue triggers a dangerous reaction that can lead to hospitalization and perhaps even death. Philippine authorities then found 14 deaths among the more than 800,000 children who were vaccinated, but there’s a dispute whether any of them could be linked to the vaccine.
In the meantime, the WHO, which initially recommended the vaccine, has shifted its position to advising against the use of Dengvaxia without a documented case of a first exposure.
Sanofi had long held up the 20-year-long development program for the vaccine as an example of what its in-house teams could accomplish, with blockbuster projections on the revenue it expected. Now Sanofi execs are trying to figure out just how much it will cost them before it’s all over.
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