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RSV vaccine uptake will start slower than shingles shot: GSK CEO

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GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley on Wednesday said she expects uptake for the company’s new RSV vaccine to start off slower than it did for its blockbuster shingles shot.

But she is confident that the new vaccine will drive future sales. 

“I think the uptake on this we need to watch for through the seasons, it won’t be the same rate of build as [the shingles vaccine] was, but we do think it’s a really key pillar and contributor,” Walmsley said during a call with reporters.

She spoke about the respiratory syncytial virus vaccine after London-based GSK reported second-quarter earnings and revenue that topped Wall Street’s estimates. 

Last month, GSK’s RSV shot became the first to win approval in the U.S. and European Union for the treatment of adults 60 and older. The company is preparing to roll out the vaccine this fall; the common respiratory disease typically begins to spread at higher levels in the autumn.

RSV usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, but it kills thousands of seniors and hundreds of children each year in the U.S. 

The company has not provided estimates for how much revenue the RSV shot will rake in this year following its launch. But GSK’s full-year forecast expects that overall vaccine revenue will increase by a “mid-teens” percentage from last year.

Walmsley also noted that GSK expects the vaccine to generate around 3 billion pounds, or $3.87 billion, in sales “over time.”

GSK’s vaccine against shingles, a viral infection that causes a painful rash, is the company’s top-selling drug. The shot generated second-quarter sales of 880 million pounds, or $1.14 billion, and has been a key revenue driver since it launched in the U.S. in late 2017.

The shot, called Shingrix, won more than 90% of the U.S. market share for shingles vaccines just five months after its launch.

In 2018, the shot gained approval in the European Union, Japan and Canada, among other countries, and posted full-year global sales of 784 million pounds, or $1.01 billion.

Investors are hoping that Shingrix and GSK’s RSV shot will help offset patent expirations for some of the company’s blockbuster HIV drugs in a few years. Those expirations will allow other drugmakers to launch similar and potentially cheaper versions of those medicines.

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