Swiss pharma giant Novartis is defying the World Health Organization by refusing to donate swine flu vaccines to the world's poor, despite the designation of H1N1 as the first pandemic in 40 years, reports the Financial Times. Last week the WHO's director general called on drug companies to show "solidarity" with low-income victims, but Novartis is telling the poor to pay up.
GlaxoSmithKline has pledged 50 million doses of its flu vaccine to the global poor, and several other drug makers have also followed the WHO's call. The US and other rich countries have already reserved major shipments of the drug, raising the prospect of further shortages in the developing world. While Novartis’ CEO said he might consider discounts, he insisted: "If you want to make production sustainable, you have to create financial incentives."