Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on Tuesday opened a $600 million plant in Singapore that is slated to begin producing vaccines to fight pneumonia-causing bacteria in 2011, Reuters reports.
According to Reuters, the "vaccine protects infants and children under age 2 from the bacterium streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes diseases like pneumonia, meningitis, bronchitis, acute sinusitis and inflammation of the inner layer of the heart or endocarditis." These diseases kill almost one million children annually, and 90 percent of the deaths occur in developing countries.
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine was introduced in the U.S. in 2000, resulting in a "sharp drop in pneumococcal disease in children," Reuters reports. However, it is not yet available in many developing countries because the cost is prohibitive. GSK CEO Andrew Witty said the company's new price flexibility policy would make its vaccines and other treatments more affordable for people in developing countries.
Witty said it will take "a year or two" to make sure the "production processes [in the new plant] are running at the appropriate level of quality" (Wong-Anan, Reuters, 6/9). According to the Straits Times, these processes include visits from international health authority auditor teams, including the FDA and the WHO (Khalik, Straits Times, 6/10).
GSK has a site in Belgium that also manufactures the vaccine (Reuters, 6/9).
This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.