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May 19 (Bloomberg) -- GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Europe's largest drugmaker, won European Union permission to sell its pre-pandemic flu vaccine, the first approval in the region of a shot to prevent an outbreak sparked by the deadly bird flu virus.
The vaccine, called Prepandrix, was cleared for sale in 29 countries to protect people against the virus before or at the beginning of a pandemic, London-based Glaxo said today in an e- mailed statement. The European regulator's advisory panel recommended adopting the product in February.
``This is a vaccine that can be produced in advance of a pandemic, that can be stockpiled ahead of a pandemic, which really allows governments to be ready in the event of a pandemic,'' Emmanuel Hanon, director and vice president of the influenza vaccine franchise at Glaxo's GSK Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium, said in a telephone conference with reporters on May 14.
Governments are trying to prepare for a possible pandemic caused by the fatal H5N1 strain of bird flu that has spread across Asia to Africa, the Middle East and Europe since 2003. Makers of the vaccines are seeking a share of a $1 billion to $2 billion potential market, analyst Andrew Fellows of Helvea in London said last year.
Glaxo has invested about $2 billion in flu vaccine manufacturing capacity and is going to double production at factories in Germany and Canada to 120 million doses at each site, Hanon said.
The drugmaker has orders for Prepandrix from the U.S. and Switzerland and other governments Hanon declined to identify. It doesn't plan to sell the vaccine directly to consumers, he said.