BUSINESS

Oral cholera vaccine in lighter plastic packaging hits market

By Sohn Ji-young
  • Published : Jan 9, 2018 - 17:01
  • Updated : Jan 10, 2018 - 15:44
The International Vaccine Institute said Tuesday that the world’s first oral cholera vaccine packaged in plastic tube vials is now available for purchase by international procurement agencies and United Nations agencies.

The oral cholera vaccine, named Euvichol-Plus, was developed by South Korean drugmaker EuBiologics based on a technology transfer from the IVI. The vaccine has officially arrived in the market after the first shipment of 2.45 million dosages were delivered to Zambia and Somlia on Jan. 5.

Euvichol-Plus is a low-cost oral cholera vaccine presented in plastic vials. It is an improved version of Euvichol, an OCV packaged in glass vials that was also produced by EuBiologics and approved by the World Health Organization in 2015.

The new plastic packaging reduces the vial’s volume by nearly 30 percent and weight by more than 50 percent, enabling easier transport and distribution of the vaccine as well as waste management, the IVI said.

Euvichol-Plus, an oral cholera vaccine packaged in plastic tubes (International Vaccine Institute)

Pricing is another major advantage. Euvichol-Plus, sold at around $1.30 per dose, is 25 percent cheaper than Euvichol. The lower price is expected to allow international aid and vaccine delivery organizations to procure more vaccines at the same cost.

“We have recently seen an unprecedented rise in demand for cholera vaccine, which has been used to save lives and stop outbreaks in countries from Haiti to Somalia,” said Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

“This new, more cost-effective presentation will both allow us to continue to meet this demand and make it easier to transport and administer in the remote areas which desperately need it.”

Euvichol-Plus is being produced at EuBiologics’ new manufacturing plant in Chuncheon of Korea, with financial backing from the Global Health Investment Fund and Korean venture capital firms.

EuBiologics’ plants are able to produce up to 50 million doses per year, which is considered enough supply to meet global OCV demand, the IVI said. The Korean drugmaker plans to gradually replace its supply of Euvichol with Euvichol-Plus, as demand shifts to the latter.

Euvichol and Euvichol-Plus are the results of a successful public-private partnership to accelerate the development and delivery of oral cholera vaccines for developing countries led by the IVI.

Founded in 1997 under a UNDP initiative, the IVI is a Seoul-headquartered international nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to developing and supplying new vaccines to underdeveloped countries. It is financially backed by state governments like Korea, Sweden and India as well as private funders including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The body works with smaller drugmakers to fill the gap created by major pharmaceutical companies which do not embark on developing affordable vaccines lacking commercial value, including those for infectious diseases that are prevalent only in the world’s poorest countries.

The IVI introduced its first commercial product -- the oral cholera vaccine -- in 2008. So far, more than 26 million doses have been deployed in over 18 countries worldwide.

Cholera, a diarrheal infection caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, is a disease that often strikes vulnerable populations in humanitarian crises.

There are an estimated 2.9 million cholera cases and 95,000 deaths per year globally, with the disease remaining endemic in over 40 countries worldwide. The disease is treatable but can kill the patient within hours, if left untreated.

Looking ahead, the IVI is preparing to introduce a new typhoid vaccine by 2021 in partnership with Korea’s vaccine maker SK Chemicals. Typhoid fever is a bacterial disease caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi. It is spread through the ingestion of food or drink contaminated by the feces or urine of infected people.

By Sohn Ji-young (jys@heraldcorp.com)

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