Which flu vaccine brand is the market leader in sales (US only) among patients <65 years old and why?
While there is no pre-existing information to fully answer your question, we've used the available data to pull together key findings: Sanofi is the top flu vaccine in the world and recently purchased Protein Science, a US-based firm, specifically to obtain Flublock Quadrivalent, a new cutting-edge vaccine recently approved by the FDA, in order to "maintain" Sanofi's "pole position in flu vaccine sales."
Below you'll find an outline of our research methodology to better understand why information you've requested is publicly unavailable, as well as a deep dive into our findings.
We were unable to locate a public pharmaceutical industry report, white paper, or other article with a listing of the top-selling flu vaccines for 2016 and/or 2017. The available information was either global in scope or too general to be of use (i.e., lacking sales figures or even rankings). We therefore used the available global data and drilled down into the top player's US operations to determine if they were the likely front runner domestically as well. Once we determined this, we studied the details of their successful operations.
THE TOP PLAYERS
The US flu vaccine market reached $1.8 billion in 2016, representing 13% of the total US vaccine market. This market is extremely consolidated due to its complexity creating major barriers to new entrants, and as a result 98% of the market is dominated by a handful of players: Sanofi, GSK (GlaxoSmithKline), AstroZenica, and CSL. We attempted to ascertain which of these had the highest flu vaccine sales in the US, but unfortunately the annual reports of these companies did not segment their sales by country or type of vaccine (as seen on the annual report available on Sanofi's website). We therefore have had to triangulate our answer from the available data.
SANOFI AS THE FRONTRUNNER
Sanofi's flu vaccines are the worldwide frontrunner. For example, Sanofi's Fluzone was the best-selling vaccine in the world in 2016, raking in $1.68 billion in one year. The result is that in October 2017, the company announced that it would invest over $200 million (€170 million) into a new plant in France to meet demand. Worldwide sales do not, of course, mean that a company or product line has dominance in the US, but our research gives us very high confidence that Sanofi holds that position domestically as well, as we will explain. Sanofi's success has been noted in third-party case studies, such as KPMG's, "Succeeding in a commoditized market: Lessons from the US influenza vaccine market," which we will look at in more detail below.
In July 2017, Sanofi agreed to buy Protein Sciences, a flu vaccine manufacturer based in Connecticut, in a deal worth as much as $750 million. This bid is expressly described as being a bit to "maintain its pole position in flu vaccine sales." The Center for Disease Control's (CDC's) fact sheet from October 2017 specifically lists Protein Science's Flublock Quadrivalent vaccine as newly available, though in fact it was approved by the FDA in October 2016. Flublock Quadrivalent is "the only FDA-approved recombinant protein-based flu vaccine" and protects against four separate flu strains in people five years and older. Sanofi purchased Protein Sciences specifically to obtain this innovative technology, solidifying its dominant position in the US.
SANOFI'S SUCCESSFUL STRATEGY
In the aforementioned white paper, "Succeeding in a commoditized market," KPMG recognizes that there are three key factors in determining the success or failure of a company in the influenza vaccine market: innovation, market segmentation, and stakeholder management. Below we show that Sanofi has successfully leveraged the first two in building its brand in the US.
The US flu vaccine market is a mature one, but still "retains key unmet needs," such as existing products becoming less effective due to immunogenicity or antigenic drift (which resulted, for example, in FluMist being withdrawn from the market), delivery technologies beyond injections, quicker manufacturing times, and reliable supplies. Sanofi's purchase of Protein Science specifically to access its new technology shows their commitment to innovation and continually improving their product line.
Effective targeting of market segments is also important for success in a mature marketplace. Sanofi's development of Fluzone to protect those over 65 (to whom flu can be deadly, rather than merely inconvenient) shows that they know how to successfully target specific market segments with their product lines. While the specific example in the case-study is outside of the scope of this question, Sanofi does not only target the older demographic, but also those as young as five, as their activities outlined above show.
While we were unable to find public sales figures which would prove that Sanofi is the leading brand of flu vaccines in the US for the under-65 demographic, we know that they are the world leader in flu vaccines and that their recent activity shows a strong interest in maintaining a dominant position in both the US and abroad. Their primary strengths are their commitment to innovation and successfully targeting specific market segments with different products.