Aug 16, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – The British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) recently announced another major order of prepandemic H5N1 influenza vaccine from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), along with plans to launch a North American clinical trial of the vaccine.HHS ordered enough vaccine in bulk form to provide 22.5 million 15-microgram (mcg) doses, the company announced on Aug 3. The order is in addition to the bulk equivalent of 5 million 15-mcg doses that HHS ordered in November 2006, officials said.The cost of the new vaccine order is $97 million, according to Marc Wolfson, a spokesman for the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in Washington, DC.The new order includes 9 million doses produced in the 2006 “manufacturing campaign” and 13.5 million doses to be produced in the 2007 campaign, GSK reported. The vaccine is based on clade 2 strain of the H5N1 virus.GSK will make the bulk vaccine at its facility in Ste. Foy, Quebec, and store it in Marietta, Pa.When HHS announced the plan to buy H5N1 vaccine from GSK in November 2006, the agency said it was ordering 800,000 doses, not the 5 million doses cited in the company’s Aug 3 announcement. Wolfson of HHS and Ken Inchausti, a GSK spokesman in Philadelphia, explained that the two announcements involve the same amount of bulk vaccine, but the HHS statement was based on a dose of 90 mcg, whereas the company announcement assumed a dose of 15 mcg.”The confusion between the 5 million doses that GSK talks about and what we have is that we’re still ordering it at the bulk rate of 90 [mcg] per dose,” Wolfson told CIDRAP News. “They’re doing tests that could possibly take it down to 15 [mcg] per dose, and if you do the math, that’s where the difference comes.”Based on 90 mcg per dose, HHS currently has 2.3 million doses of GSK vaccine in its H5N1 vaccine stockpile, Wolfson reported.The vaccine contract provides that HHS may direct the company to formulate the bulk vaccine into doses in the future, GSK said. In addition, HHS has an option to buy the vaccine in combination with one of the company’s proprietary adjuvants, or immune-boosting chemicals, which could reduce the amount of vaccine antigen needed to induce a protective immune response, the company reported.Funds for the vaccine contract will come through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, according to GSK.Clinical trial startingGSK also announced the start of the first North American clinical trial of its prepandemic H5N1 vaccine. The trial is described as a phase1/2 study that will compare the safety and immunogenicity of the H5N1 antigen alone and in combination with one of GSK’s adjuvant systems in 675 adult volunteers. Inchausti said the trial will be conducted at sites in Montana, California, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Kansas, and Nevada and in Halifax and Quebec, Canada.The company said it plans to follow up later this year with a phase 3 trial that will involve about 4,400 volunteers. Results of the phase 1/2 trial are expected in early 2008.Last March, GSK reported that in a clinical trial, one of its adjuvanted H5N1 vaccines triggered a strong immune response with two 3.8-mcg doses, or about half of the 15-mcg dose typically used for each viral strain in seasonal flu vaccines. The company also said tests showed that the vaccine, based on a Vietnam strain of H5N1, generated cross-reactive immunity against an Indonesian strain.GSK, Baxter sign vaccine deals with UKIn other developments, both GSK and US-based Baxter International today announced agreements to sell vaccine to the United Kingdom in the event of a flu pandemic.Under the GSK agreement, the company will make preparations to provide a “tailored” vaccine as soon as possible after a pandemic is declared by the World Health Organization, according to a company news release. GSK said it also has agreements to sell pandemic vaccines to Switzerland, Denmark, and Iceland.Baxter, based in Deerfield, Ill., said its European subsidiary in the UK signed an agreement giving the UK an option to buy Baxter’s vaccine in the event of a pandemic. The company’s candidate pandemic vaccine is produced in vero cell culture rather than in eggs, the conventional medium for flu vaccine production. Baxter said it recently enrolled volunteers for a phase 3 clinical study of its cell-based H5N1 vaccine in Europe.See also: Mar 6 CIDRAP News story “Glaxo H5N1 vaccine may work against multiple strains”Nov 20, 2006, CIDRAP News story “HHS awards 3 contracts for more H5N1 vaccine”
Analysis by the UK government has shown charging in both trust and insurance defined contribution (DC) schemes stands higher than estimates – and on the cusp of, or above, a proposed charge cap.The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) conducted more than 1,300 interviews with trust and contract schemes, as well as the 11 largest insurance DC providers in the UK.Through its research, and analysis of scheme data, the department found the average annual charge for members was 75 basis points in trust schemes and 84bps in insurance schemes.Previous estimates by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), a lobby group for insurance-based pension providers, said the average charge among its members was 52bps. Average figures also differed significantly when split by the size of the scheme.A small insurance scheme (six to 11 members) was paying as much as 91bps, while a trust scheme (with 12-99 members) was paying 94bps.Average annual charges fall as scheme size increases, the government said.An insurance scheme with more than 1,000 members fell below the 75bps threshold recently touted by the DWP.Charges for the largest trust schemes marginally fell below those of the larger contract-based schemes, with an average charge of 42bps.The government had been consulting on implementing a cap on member charges within DC schemes.The cap, which was initially expected to be between 50bps and 100bps, was aimed at schemes used for the rollout of auto-enrolment, with expectations for its application across all schemes.However, the cap was expected to be implemented by April this year, until it was announced by pensions minister Steve Webb that complications had forced the government to delay by at least a year.This sparked a backlash from opposition ministers in the UK Parliament, amid accusations the government had given in to vested interests in the insurance industry.In its research, the department added that the size of the scheme, along with adviser commissions, contributions and when the scheme was set up, impacted the most on charging levels.Trust schemes set up before 1991, on average, had a higher charge by 10bps to those set up after 2001.The difference between schemes in the insurance sector was 20bps.The use of active member discounts (AMDs), which results in non-contributory members facing additional charges, and another aspect the current government aimed to abolish, were also analysed.Government research showed only 3% of trust schemes operated such a policy, with marginally more insurance providers doing so, at 10%.On average, non-contributory members faced an additional 38bps charge in their DC fund compared with active members.
Airtel Ghana’s enterprise business solutions unit, Airtel Business, has forayed into golf with a three year partnership agreement with the Ghana Golf Association to sponsor the annual event.The first phase of the partnership was the 82nd Airtel Ghana Open which came off at the Royal Golf Club at Kumasi.Director of Airtel Business, Maxwell Dodd, explained that the health benefits of golf to players are enormous and well documented. “We know how healthy it is to our hearts and lungs when we workout especially when one does a full 18 holes; we know also that playing a nine-hole course can burn up to 721 calories by walking; playing golf also helps reduce stress in addition to having a low risk of injury”. Also Golf is a game with integrity and helps corporate executives develop their minds to focus on achieving their goals successively, he said.He however adds that, “to us when you add these health benefits to the strategic importance of golf to those of us in the business of providing telecommunication based solutions to our clients, then we kill two birds with one stone with our association with one of Ghana’s oldest golf events, the Ghana Open”, he said. Mr. Dodd, a golfer himself, explains that through the partnership with what will now be called the Airtel Ghana Open, Airtel Business finds the event a congenial one to relate with Airtel’s high valued, premier customers as well as the growing list of corporate clients.“The golf course and serenity of the club house provides a perfect atmosphere to interact with our customers and potential ones away from our offices and out of our suits and ties. This sort of interactions also makes it possible for us to gain a deeper understanding of the various communication solutions we offer our clients”, Maxwell Dodd said.Among the business solutions from Airtel Business Solutions are a wide range of Communication Solutions (i.e. Mobile, Fixed, and satellite), Connectivity Solutions (via Microwave Radio, Fiber, and Satellite) and Collaboration Solutions (Managed and hosted Services, cloud services, and Machine to Machine solutions). “We are going to be involved with the Ghana Golf Association over the next few years and potentially beyond it; the corporate clients and our high value clients and the new ones we have made over the three days we spent here encourages us to do more going into the future”, Maxwell Dodd said.The Ghana Open Golf Championship has been the flagship and the most prestigious Championship of the golfing calendar since 1920. This year’s Championship attracted about 170 players ranging from 16 of Ghana’s Golf Clubs including Kumasi, Achimota, Celebrity, Tema, Bok Nam Kim, Tafo, Beige Village, Takoradi, Tarkwa, Damang, Benso, Awaso, Nsuta, Obuasi, Bogoso and Elmina.This year’s competition was given a royal flavor when the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, an avid golfer, teed off for the 82nd Airtel Ghana Open at the Royal Golf Club in Kumasi, a course the Asantehene regular plays on.After three days of excellent weather and great golfing, Felicity Kyei Gyeabour emerged the overall Ladies winner with Kwabena Poku emerging the Men’s overall winner.President of the Ghana Golf Association, Dr. Felix Frempong was happy with the interest shown in the competition by sponsors and players alike. He was particularly excited by the enthusiasm shown by the golfers and the spirit of healthy competition within which they competed.He announced that the 83rd Airtel Ghana Open will also come off in September 2015 and will be hosted again by the Royal Golf Club in Kumasi.