Austrian biotech group Intercell has launched its Japanese encephalitis vaccine in India, and hopes to win approval for other Asian countries, it said on Thursday.
The company had expected the Indian launch of the vaccine – its first product on the market, which helped it swing to a profit in the second quarter – in the first half.
The vaccine, which will be called Jeev in India and is known as Ixario in other markets, is already available for adult travellers and military personnel in Europe, north America, Hong Kong, Singapore, Israel and Australia. The vaccine, JEEV, is priced at Rs. 985. This is a one-time vaccine to be taken in two doses and will soon be available in the domestic market It is a mouse brain derived inactivated vaccine. Currently, a live anti-JE vaccine is imported from China.
“We have taken a major step forward in achieving our goal of rolling out this Japanese Encephalitis vaccine in endemic countries with a high medical need in order to protect children and adults,” Intercell Chief Executive Thomas Lingelbach said.
The mosquito-borne disease, which can cause fever, convulsions and coma, is most prevalent in southeast Asia and the Far East, and is more likely to kill children than adults. Tens of thousands of cases are reported annually in Asia.
Intercell said it expected the approval for other Asian territories through the World Health Organisation, and said Swiss drugmaker Novartis would be responsible for marketing and distribution in those countries.
JE is highly prevalent in south-east Asia and the Far East and nearly 67,900 cases are recorded annually with 1169 deaths reported from India alone. During the last few years, over 10 million children have been affected worldwide by JE and 4 million have died or become permanently disabled, as per the vaccine manufacturer.
Commentary: Since at present we do not have any JE vaccine in the private sector in India, it is really good news to know that this FDA & WHO approved vaccine would be available soon and that too at competitive rates. In the meantime, TravelSafe clinic appears to be one of the few private centers to have the live attenuated vaccine available for people traveling to India and wanting the JE vaccination. The advantage of the live vaccine is that a single dose gives (probably) life long protection without the need of any booster. However, JEEV / Ixiaro would have the advantage of prior FDA approval making it a more confident choice for travelers from Europe/ America. Also being actively marketed in the private sector, it would be more freely available.