GlaxoSmith-Kline launches pandemic-readiness program

PHILADELPHIA Companies struggling to build vaccine stockpiles to prepare for a possible flu pandemic will get a boost from GlaxoSmithKline, the London-based drug maker announced Wednesday.

GSK announced the launch of the Relenza Inhalation Powder Pandemic Readiness for Employers Program, or PREP. The program will give business two options when stockpiling the drug. They can either purchase Relenza at a discounted rate with free storage or reserve quantities of the vaccine for future purchase at a capped rate with a nominal annual fee.

The Department of Health and Human Services has encouraged employers to protect their workers and to stockpile antiviral drugs.

"We are committed to helping employers and other business leaders prepare for an influenza pandemic and its impact on the health of their employees and the operation integrity of their organizations,"said Chris Viehbacher, president of North American pharmaceuticals for GlaxoSmithKline. "By offering employers these options, we aim to reduce the storage and cost barriers associated with implementing an antiviral stockpiling program."

Relenza, which is known generically as zanamivir, had sales of $232.23 million in 2007, according to GSK financial data. In-vitro and animal testing have indicated that it is effective against the H5N1 strain of avian flu, which experts believe could mutate into an airborne strain and cause a global pandemic.

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