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AstraZeneca aims to sell nasal flu vaccine in EU

AstraZeneca hopes to sell a nasal spray flu vaccine that is already available in the United States in Europe as well.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said on Tuesday its MedImmune biotechnology unit had submitted a marketing application for the needle-free alternative to annual flu shots to the European Medicines Agency.

The vaccine, which is designed to provide immunity against seasonal flu, was approved for use in 2003 in the United States, where it is sold as Flumist.

It is a niche product in the US compared to conventional injectable vaccines, but demand has been increasing and MedImmune announced last February it was tripling production to 12 million doses for the 2008-2009 influenza season.

Global flu vaccine capacity is about 400 million doses, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

AstraZeneca, which acquired MedImmune in 2007, believes its needle-free treatment can help increase vaccination rates - a common goal for governments around the world.

Shares in the group rose 2% in early trade, slightly outperforming a 1.5% advance in the European healthcare sector.

The vaccine contains weakened strains of the influenza virus, selected annually by the WHO based on those expected to pose the biggest threat in the upcoming season. (Reuters)