Glaxo hails ‘truly exceptional’ results in respiratory virus vaccine trial

Boost for Glaxo as pharma giant hails ‘truly exceptional’ results in key respiratory virus vaccine trial

GSK hailed a major win for its drug pipeline after announcing ‘truly exceptional’ results in a key trial for its vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

RSV is common and usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. 

But the disease can become serious and is a leading cause of pneumonia in toddlers and the elderly, causing around 8,000 deaths in the UK each year.

Trial boost: A phase III clinical study of GSK’s jab for RSV showed the vaccine caused a 94.1% reduction in the severe version of the disease

A phase III clinical study of the pharmaceutical group’s jab for RSV showed the vaccine caused a 94.1 per cent reduction in the severe version of the disease while the overall effectiveness was 82.6 per cent. The results were a boost for chief executive Emma Walmsley.

‘These are truly exceptional results given that today RSV remains one of the major infectious diseases without a vaccine, despite over 60 years of research,’ said Tony Wood, GSK’s chief scientific officer. 

He added the vaccine had the potential to reduce the ‘significant global burden’ of RSV in older adults, many of whom have a high risk of developing severe illness due to other conditions.

The results put GSK’s jab ahead of US rival Pfizer, which in August reported that its own RSV vaccine was 66.7 per cent effective overall. Pfizer’s jab was also 85.7 per cent effective at preventing severe disease. 

GSK is planning to submit the trial data to regulators by the end of this year. If it receives approval, the vaccine could become the first for RSV anywhere in the world.

But GSK shares were down 2.1 per cent, or 27.8p, to 1331p despite the positive news.

Susie Jana, analyst at broker Shore Capital, said the sluggish stock price performance was partially due to lingering investor worries about GSK’s potential liability in a US lawsuit over heartburn drug Zantac, which was pulled from shelves in 2019 amid fears it contained a cancer-causing chemical.

The incident has led to more than 2,000 cases being filed in the US, raising fears the pharma giants which had sold it could pay hefty damages.

Aside from its Zantac struggles, GSK also faces a battle for pole position in the race to get its RSV vaccine approved by regulators, facing down Pfizer as well as Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Danish group Bavarian Nordic.