Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Jun 13, 2005
Climate & Weather
Industry & Economy - Pharmaceuticals
Marketing - Strategy
It's monsoon time: Drug cos step up vaccine promos...
P.T. Jyothi Datta
Mumbai , June 12
MONSOONS are in the offing and what better time for vaccine companies to talk to you about Hepatitis A, for instance, an infection that spreads from contaminated water.
And the low consumer awareness on the infection across the country makes it only that much more significant for vaccine companies to educate the consumer and allow him to make an informed decision.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Biologicals has recently launched `Koi Hai' an education programme on Hepatitis A. Besides a television commercial, slated to break soon, the intervention programme also targets workplaces and schools.
"Education should be round the clock. But yes, there is a spike in the promotion of the Hepatitis A vaccine associated with the monsoon. This is because contaminated water is a source of infection. People are more receptive when there is a problem. And Hepatitis A is a preventable disease," says Dr Sanjoy K. Datta, Medical Director, GSK Vaccines.
A study commissioned by the company and conducted by TNS Mode found that the overall awareness levels on hepatitis A, its causes and impact were low in the country.
Delhiites, for instance, knew less about the disease as compared to their counterparts in Mumbai and Chennai.
There was some degree of confusion on the primary organ affected by this viral infection, as well. About 61 per cent of the respondents in Mumbai, 40 per cent in Delhi and 29 per cent in Chennai believed that their kidney, heart, eyes or stomach would be primarily affected by the illness. Fact is, the liver gets affected.
Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and dengue are some of the concerns in the southern regions of the country during the monsoons. "About 2,000 children die in Andhra Pradesh because of JE," says Mr Varaprasad Reddy, Managing Director of Shanta Biotechnics. The Hyderabad-based company currently markets a Korean vaccine for JE, imported from GreenCross. Shanta Biotech looks to eventually commence production of this traditional vaccine in India and it will do so using an alternate strain, a tissue culture cell-line, as opposed to mouse brain, he said. The company also expects to bring its cholera vaccine to the market by March 2006.
Shanta Biotech was instrumental in bringing down prices of the Hepatitis B vaccine, from the then prevalent Rs 1,500 to below Rs 300, an industry analyst observed.
But for Panacea Biotech, vaccine promotions have been on a "high-pitch" right through the year, said Mr Rajesh Jain, Joint Managing Director, with the company. The company is a new entrant on the scene having launched its vaccines business earlier this year.
He felt that the vaccine business was driven by the baby-boom, however, he added that there would be an increase in the June-July period when the rains were expected. But the company is not looking to take the media-promotional strategy to talk to consumers and looks to do this instead through consumer camps and doctors, he said.
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